Five climbs to challenge top names in field
The Vuelta a Murcia, formerly a five-stage race, will feature a stellar line-up when it is held as a one-day race on Saturday, February 23. Alejandro Valverde, who recently won the Ruta del Sol, will headline the race.
Valverde, who took the overall title in Ruta del Sol by winning both the first and last stages, will lead a strong Movistar team which will also feature Rubén Plaza, Pablo Lastras, Juan José Cobo and Nairo Quintana. Valverde won the race twice when it was a longer stage race, and Quintana won it last year when it was two stages.
Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi will open his season at the race. Astana will be led by Jani Brajkovic, whilst Blanco is sending its best climbers in Bauke Mollema (third at Ruta del Sol), Robert Gesink and Stef Clement. Jonathan Hivert of Sojasun, who won the second and third stages at Ruta del Sol, will lead Sojasun in the race.
There will be plenty of work for the climbers in Saturday's 185km race. The first climb, the Alto de Pliego, at km 50.3. and is category three, as is the next climb, the lto de Cola de Caballo.
The real climbing starts shortly after that, with the category one Alto de Espuna a km 127.9, followed almost immediately by the Collado Bermejo-Cima Marco Pantani. It is also a category one climb topping out at 1170 metres.
A long descent leads to the day's third intermediate sprint, but the climbing is not yet done. The stage ends with another climb, this time up the category three Alto Castilla de Lorca, where the winner will be crowned.