Tour of San Luis attracts ProTour talent

19 teams confirmed for Argentinean season opener

The fourth annual Tour of San Luis will be the event that kicks off the racing season for nineteen teams in 2010. Organizers promise tougher stages and more climbing in its seven-day stage race set to start on January 18 and conclude on January 24 in San Luis, Argentina.

It is sanctioned by the UCI as a 2.1 category event for a second consecutive season. Argentina’s warm summer climate coupled with the city of San Luis’ mountainous backdrop has attracted the creme of the crop in the ProTour ranks to US-based Continental teams and national teams from around the world.

Many international teams will be competing in Australia’s Tour Down Under held during the same week however, organizers of the Tour of San Luis confirmed nineteen teams eager to participate in its seven-day stage race. The long list of talented climbers includes Dane Michael Rasmussen who is listed to compete with the Italian-based team MICHE Pro Cycling.

National teams participating in the top ranked South American stage race include defending champions Team Argentina along with Mexico, Columbia, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Cuba. Last year, Alfredo ‘El Flaco’ Lucero won the overall title. Participating national teams have yet to announce their respective rosters.

ProTour teams confirmed to start include Liquigas-Doimo led by Vincenzo Nibali, Brian Vanborg and sprinter Francesco Chicchi. Katusha is expected to send a strong team that includes Filippo Pozzato and Danilo Napolitano. Footon-Servetto will return with climber Gianpaolo Cheula.

Professional Continental teams include ISD, Andalucia Cajasur and new additions Xacobeo-Galicia, Scott-Marcondes and Androni-Giacatolli. Also making the lengthy travel to Argentina are Sparkasse and the German National Team.

US-bases Continental team Jamis-Sutter Home returns with a strong contingent of Argentinean talents that include brothers Alejandro and Anibal Borrajo. South American trade teams include Funvic-Sundown and Orven.

Former UCI World Champion and Beijing Olympic Gold Medalist, Juan Curuchet is the newest technical director of the Tour de San Luis. Now retired, he is looking forward to taking his career to a new level in helping to plan and organize this year’s edition of the most important stage race in Argentina.

"It is very important," said Curuchet, a world renowned track racer. "I will be the connection between the technical sportsmen, directors and the commissioners and will be able to make important decisions about anything to do with the competition. It is something that I know because I know what both cyclists and authorities need. This is a good opportunity for me because it opens doors to direct other Argentinean races."

The seven-stage event includes three mountaintop finishes that will make the event challenging. It kicks off on January 18 in San Luis with a 168-kilometre road race that finishes in Villa Mercedes. Stage two will take the riders on six-lap circuit through the streets of Potrero De Los Fuentes before shooting them out toward the first mountain finish, the five-kilometre long Mirador ascent.

Stage three will prove to be a day for the sprinters. Beginning in the city of Fraga, the peloton will race its way predominantly downhill for 199 kilometres to the finishing city of Buena Esperanza. The time trialists will have their day in the spotlight with a 19-kilometre contra-reloj on stage four held in San Luis.

It is back to the climbing on stage five with what could play out as the decisive stage for the overall. The 156-kilometre stage starts in San Luis and will take the riders on a predominantly flat trek toward the daunting final climb to the finishing city of La Carolina.

"The race will be much more attractive to the level of the cyclists who are going to be here and also by the new mountain stage of Carolina which, I have no doubts that it will be decisive," Curuchet said.

If the clear overall leader has not emerged yet, he will at the end of stage six’s 150-kilometre road race. It is arguably the ‘Queen’ stage with an initial 20-kilometre climb to the top of Cantana. The peloton will continue toward the final climb of the day, a 25-kilometre ascent that passes through the small town of Merlo before finishing at the top of Mirador Del Sol.

The seventh and final stage offers a grueling 167-kilometre circuit race in San Luis. Upon its conclusion one rider will be crowned the winner of the Tour de San Luis.

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