By Shane Stokes
Oscar Pereiro is still unsure as to whether or not he will be crowned the winner of this year's Tour de France but the popular Galician rider was honoured at the announcement of the route of the 2007 Vuelta today in the Spanish capital of Madrid.
The Grand Tour will begin on September 1st next year in his home city of Vigo with a 145 kilometre road stage, then head north towards a very early rendezvous with the first of the major mountain stages, stage four's 182 kilometre leg to the Special Category Lagos de Covadonga. This is followed the next day with a hilly 155 kilometre leg to Reinosa.
The lack of a prologue plus the early climbs are the standout of the first week of the race, which will total approximately 3,241 kilometres in length. In all there are 11 mainly flat stages, 8 days of medium and high mountains plus two time trials. The first of these comes on day eight and is a 49 kilometre race against the clock, while the second takes place on the penultimate day of race and is just 25 kilometers in length.
Following that first TT in Zaragoza, the riders head skywards once more, racing to the summit finishes at the Estación de Esquí Cerler and then stage 10's Estación d'Esqui d'Ordino-Arcalís in Andorra. The first rest day gives some respite, although the riders will face a transfer to the start of the following stage in Oropesa.
The race will then continue southwards from here before it encounters the next decisive climbing stage, day 15's 205 kilometre leg to Granada. This features the same final climb and fast descent to the finish as when 2006 winner Alexandre Vinokourov took over the maillot oro this year from Alejandro Valverde, the Kazakhstani going on to win the race.
Three days later, the riders will cross a first and second category climb on the way to the beautiful walled city of Avila, then roughly 24 hours later the peloton tackles the final summit finish, the first category Alto de Abantos. After that, there is just the second 25 kilometre time trial plus the final stage to be tackled, making it likely that the overall honours will be up for grabs until the final days of the race.
Vinokourov, third placed Andrey Kashechkin (both Astana) and fourth placed Carlos Sastre (CSC) were all missing today, but runner-up Alejandro Valverde was happy with what he saw. "It's a hard route but a very nice one," he said.
Team-mate Oscar Pereiro was also pleased. "It looks good and starting very near my home is very special for me. I think the route is not particularly hard; that will suit a lot of riders, and make it a bit better for those who go to the race but who are not building their season around it.
"My big goal next year is to go to the Tour de France in top shape," he continued. "I'm not sure yet where I will end up [with regards to next year's race] but riding well there again is a priority. If I can hold form, I'd be very happy to perform well in the Vuelta."
Click here for the complete stage list and details of the 2007 Vuelta a España. More details will follow later on Cyclingnews.
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