2010 Vuelta winner Vincenzo Nibali and his main Spanish rivals Carlos Sastre, Samuel Sanchez, Joaquin Rodriguez and Igor Anton, were all at the official presentation of the route in Benidorm, Spain. All agreed the six mountain finishes and limited time trialing makes it a route for excellent climbers.
“It’ll be a hard Vuelta right from the start because the finish in the Sierra Nevada,” Nibali told Marca, spotting the 2,126m high finish on stage four.
Despite his Geox-TMC team needing a secure a wild card invitation after being snubbed for a ProTeam place, Sastre was confident he will be at the start in Benidorm on August 20.
“It’s a hard route, similar to last year’s with a spectacular start,” he said, noting the Sierra Nevada finish and pointing out it could still be very hot in southern Spain in August. "The three grand tour organizers are trying to more chances to the climbers and I like that."
Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez was worried about the steep stage finishes, especially the one to Lagos de Somiedo on stage 14.
"There are only 40km against the clock and the time trial is in the second week, so there is no real chance to get back two or three minutes," he said. "It’ll be an open race, which is not too hard but we’ll be climbing for an hour on stage 11 to Manzaneda. The finish at Lagos de Somiedo is short but hard. It climbs 1,500 metres in just eight kilometres. That’s very tough.”
Rodriguez found it amusing that some riders were already worried about such a mountainous route. He pointed out several stages that could also throw up surprises and catch out some riders.
“Stages like the one to Ponferrada (Stage 13) are difficult to control and so a rider who perhaps is not in the leading positions could get away and become a danger,” he said.
Euskaltel climber Igor Antón, crashed out of the 2010 Vuelta while wearing the leader’s jersey. But he was perhaps the happiest of all the riders. The route suits him and the final stages are on his home roads in the Basque Country for the first time for 33 years.
"I hope this time to reach the Alto de Angliru," he said, naming it as the queen stage of the race even if it will not create huge time differences.
"This (middle) week will be important because it will tire riders a lot. I will try to be at my best because these mountain stages could decide the race.”