46th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - PT
Spain, April 3-8, 2006
- Stage 1 - April 3: Irún - Irún, 130 Km
- Stage 2 - April 4: Irún - Segura, 155 Km
- Stage 3 - April 5: Segura - Lerín, 170 Km
- Stage 4 - April 6: Lerín - Vitoria- Gasteiz, 172 Km
- Stage 5 - April 7: Vitoria- Gasteiz - Zalla, 178 Km
- Stage 6 - April 8: Zalla - Zalla ITT, 24 Km
The ProTour continues this week with the 46th Tour of the Basque Country/Vuelta al Pais Vasco/Euskal Herriko itzulia, a tough six day stage race through the exremely hilly country in the northern part of the Iberian peninsula. Last year's winner, Danilo di Luca, will be back again this year, but probably not in the same form that saw him not only win this race, but also the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne. Those few weeks in 2005 built the foundation that resulted in an overall win in the inaugural ProTour. However, Di Luca will surely test his legs a few times with an eye to the Giro d'Italia.
Instead, we can look to riders like Frank Schleck (CSC), Denis Menchov and Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), José Azevedo (Discovery Channel), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Iban Mayo and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) to be among the action during the six days.
The race begins with a 130 km stage around Irún, followed by a more difficult 155 km one from Irún to Segura, featuring 12 climbs. Stage 3 from Segura to Lerín is 170 km and has a cat. 3 cobbled climb at the finish, to mess things up for the sprinters. The fourth stage between Lerín and Vitoria- Gasteiz is 172 km and with the cat. 1 Alto de la Herrera halfway, followed by a couple of laps of a finishing circuit with some cat. 3 climbs, it won't be easy.
The fifth stage is between Vitoria- Gasteiz and Zalla over 178 km and has the steep Alto De Orduna after 61 km, before a series of jagged smaller hills in the final 80 km that will break the peloton. The final stage is a 24 km time trial around Zalla, and usually decides the general classification.