"I'll hold my breath if it rains in the Spanish capital," Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto) told the Belgian VUM newspapers. "You'll get a guaranteed spectacle. Not only I predict a super-slippery road surface, but there's so many pits and cracks in the streets. On top of that you get metal covers of the metrostations, two to three metres long, which will be dangerous when it's wet. I absolutely don't think this is a great parcours. This is a very hectic circuit: incredible number of bends and not one metre of flat. Because of all the turning it will be a very hard race and we'll get crashes as it is. It will be a very nervous race. To be in the front the whole day, that will be the task.
I haven't even mentioned the U-turn 600 metres before the line. It will be a most awkward sprint because with 500 metres to go everyone will sort of have to take off from zero. Petacchi will never get his sprint train organised there. It's impossible for the Italian to be launched in front of the corner at a speed of 65km/h. Madrid is a typical city-parcours.
"If they want to name that last turn, they don't have to look for long. Just call it the McEwen-turn," Jose De Cauwer told Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian National Coach has been scouting the parcours thoroughly and he didn't like what he saw. "I'm already getting the chills thinking about that blasted U-turn. A kamikaze can cause a lot of misery there.
"The graphics in the official program are pretty much correct. Only that one turn I hadn't calculated to be like that," De Cauwer continued his analysis. "You can count on it that riders will come flying down there and that one will attack in the last kilometres...well, that will be a fearful moment...and a very slow sprint in any case. In the last stage of the Vuelta Zabel came only one and a half lengths short against Petacchi, where normally it is about three. And that after a ride of only 150km. This turn, which means almost a full stop and then exploding on a slightly uphill line; that's something for strong guys. McEwen can do that, but so can Boonen. I'm sure of that. I haven't gotten pessimistic about it."
But will it end up in a sprint? "The parcours will do its job," De Cauwer added. "Not that I want to exaggerate those two climbs. On the promotional video of the UCI, I saw Abraham Olano, ten kilos heavier, cruise up there on the big chainring. And in the mean time he was explaining everything. So it's not that hard. Zolder? There we saw one big train, from start to finish. An average way above 46, that I don't see happening here in Madrid. For that, this parcours is simply too hard.
"A lot of riders will last a long time and even believe that there is a chance for them. Last year in Verona the lesser climbers understood very quickly that they didn't have to act too crazy. Here, the temptation of playing an active role in a break will be a lot bigger. Till the finale, when the big boys will give it a good shake, then a lot of heads will roll easily."