Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzué and veteran rider Alejandro Valverde reacted to the unveiling of the 2017 Vuelta a España parcours on Thursday, both agreeing that challenging stages in the first week should see a climber-friendly GC battle get underway early in the race.
"An early look at the route makes us happy, especially with the fact that there's a TTT, which should never be missed on Grand Tours," Unzué said via a Movistar press release. "It's a good way to kick off with a route that starts ramping up right from the start, with the climbs of La Rabassa and La Comella into the Andorra stage and those three mountain-top finishes in Valencia before the first race day. You feel like the race will get exciting from the very start."
The climbing doesn't let up from there, with nine total summit finishes on the docket for the 2017 Vuelta.
"I feel like it's a Vuelta route even harder than in previous occasions, and I'm sure it'll be spectacular," Unzué said.
Valverde, who was forced to skip the presentation after a training crash Wednesday, also spoke to the difficulty of the route, while offering praise for the overall design.
“It looks like a really demanding Vuelta a España. Some people will probably say they shot completely off the mark, and for those like us who are suffering it on the bike it will be even more of a challenge, but I understand and prefer to have it this way. At the end of the day, fans want spectacle, and with this route, I'm confident the race will be really attractive for them," he said.
"You'll have to plan your training schedule well and peak early, because those three mountain-top finishes in the first week will take a big share in the overall result. For the climbs on week two – I know them really well, they're really demanding, and high altitude combined with the slopes will make a big impact. That will pay off a lot when entering the Cantabria stages, and also L'Angliru, famous for its incredible ramps. It's a climber's course, no doubts about that. No place for TT specialists who climb just well; not even for sprinters, because some stages, like the one in Murcia, are mountain ones even if they don't finish uphill. The fact that the race goes through my region makes it even more special."
Movistar's Nairo Quintana is the defending champion in the race, though a rumored run at the Giro-Tour double may make it unlikely he'll attempt a title defense in 2017. Valverde counts one overall victory and several other podium finishes at the Vuelta among his career palmares. While his season calendar is not yet finalised, he noted in today's press release that he hopes to line up for the Vuelta in August despite missing the route presentation following his crash.
"It's awful I couldn't be there, because I like to support the race and I make it there almost every single year, but considering the blows I suffered, the most reasonable thing was to stay at home and avoid a long journey out and back from Murcia. Where I'm hoping to be at is the start in Nîmes, on August 19," he said. "My schedule is not completely defined, but a clear goal in mind for me is making the Vuelta team."