The 2007 Vuelta a España will start without not only last year's winner, but without the entire 2006 podium. Despite this, the racing will be as close and exciting as ever. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown picks out the favourites.
The riders of the 62nd Vuelta a España will start their 3291-kilometre journey this Saturday, September 1, from Vigo, heading out onto a parcours that, along with the composition of the peloton, should make for a gripping 2007 edition of the race. Organiser Unipublic has continued to do what it does best by offering an exciting three-week journey, this year delivered in the form of a one-two punch.
The fight for the Maillot Oro will take place as the roads guide the riders from north-western Spain in a clockwise direction. It takes in Galicia and Asturia on its way east before skirting down the coast for the southern stages. It is the northern stages of the first week and the southern stages in the third week that will pack the biggest punch. After the sprinters have had a chance in the first three days, the GC contenders will come out to play, and we should have an early glimpse of the final winner as early as Tuesday - just four days into the race - when the riders meet their first big obstacle: the 12.6-kilometre ascent of Lagos de Covadonga.
After stage four, the second big appointment will be the 52-kilometre time trial in Cariñena to Zaragoza. The slightly downhill parcours will be shaped by the wind, which is always a factor in the Spanish Tour.