Valverde, Vinokourov and Cunego in Murcia

The Vuelta a Murcia-Trofeo Alfonso Gúzmam will feature some big names when it kicks off on...

The Vuelta a Murcia-Trofeo Alfonso Gúzmam will feature some big names when it kicks off on Wednesday, March 1 in Spain. For the 26th edition, Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears), Alexandre Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre - Fondital) are all down to start, as is Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), the winner of the King of the Mountains jersey in the last Tour de France. There is a possibility that Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) will also be on the start line, together with his confirmed teammate Max van Heeswijk.

The five day race totals 643 kilometres, starting with a 162 km stage between Murcia and Las Torres de Cotillas, which also serves as the start of stage 2. The second stage includes the climb of Alcantarilla and finishes in Alhama de Murcia over a total of 172.4 km. Stage 3 is a 21.3 km time trial in Jumilla, while the queen stage 4 will be over 148.6 km between Caravaca de la Cruz and the alto del Collado Bermejo. The tour finishes in the Murcian capital with a 138.7 km stage.

The race features four Cat. 1 climbs: Alto la Perdiz in stage 2, and the Altos de Campo de San Juan, Espuña and Collado Bermejo, all during stage 4. Eight Spanish teams will start: Illes Balears-Caisse d'Espagne, Liberty Seguros, Euskaltel Euskadi, Kaiku, 3 Molinos Resort, Comunidad Valenciana, Andalucía Paul Versán and Relax GAM, and six foreign teams: Lampre, Ceramica Panaria, Discovery Channel, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Unibet.com.

The stages

Stage 1 - March 1: Murcia - Las Torres de Cotillas, 162 km
Stage 2 - March 2: Las Torres de Cotillas - Alhama de Murcia
Stage 3 - March 3: Jumilla - Jumilla ITT, 21.3 km
Stage 4 - March 4: Caravaca de la Cruz - alto del Collado Bermejo, 148.6 km
Stage 5 - March 5: Murcia - Murcia, 138.7 km

Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón

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