By Robinson Nuñez
The Vuelta Lider was created in 1997 by Lider, the largest supermarket chain in Chile. That first edition was only four stages in the south of Chile, and was won by the Chilean Jose Medina. Over its history, the race has seen a growth in the number and level of competitors and also the number of stages. Currently, the Vuelta Lider is the most important race in Chile.
This year the race runs from March 15-25, and will cover 1400 kilometres between Puerto Montt, in the southern part of Chile, and Santiago, the capital. Important stages will be the queen stage up to the ski station of Valle Nevado, with 2500 vertical meters of climbing; Stage 5 that will have three climbs in the last 40 km before arriving to Concepcion, and Stage 8 with a another mountain top finish in Maitenes.
These stages, along with the time trials, will surely decide the winner, but who might come out on top is no easy answer as this year's field contains several big names. Relax-Gam will be aiming for a win with Paco Mancebo; Lider has defending champion Andrei Sartasov and Marco Arriagada that is a world-class climber, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia with Jose Serpa (PanAm Champion), 2005 winner, the Argentinean Edgardo Simon and Tour de Langkawi standout Alberto Loddo for the sprints. Other important squads are Collavita-Sutter Home, Scott Brasil, Venezuelan national team and locals OGM and Glassex Bryc, who will all be aiming for stage wins.