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Strong field for Challenge Illes Balears

The opening of the Spanish season will once again be on the island of Mallorca with the 14th edition of the Challenge Illes Balears-Volta a Mallorca between February 6-10. Featuring five independent one day races with an overall classification at the end, the Challenge is used by many teams as a slightly relaxed way to ease into the season, as there is no requirement to ride one stage in order to start the next. As such, teams typically take bigger squads of up to 15 riders each, chopping and changing in order to give all their riders a taste of the racing.

Among the top riders present are triple World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank), World Cup champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) and Eric Zabel (T-Mobile). There are 15 teams in total, including nearly all of the major Spanish teams as well as four foreign squads: Comunidad Valenciana, Illes Balears, Euskatel-Euskadi, Saunier Duval, Orbea, Kaiku, Spiuk-Zafra, Relax-Fuenlabrada, E-Bici.Com, Spanish track team (all Spa), Phonak Hearing Systems (Swi), Quick.Step (Bel), Rabobank (Ned) and T-Mobile (Ger).

The race will start on February 6 with an 82 km circuit in Palma and finish on February 10 with a 148 km stage between Magalluf and Palmanova. Last year's edition was won by Antonio Colom (Illes Balears-Banesto).

The stages

Stage 1 - February 6: Palma-Palma (Trofeo Mallorca), 82.5 km
Stage 2 - February 7: Port d'Alcudia-Port d'Alcudia (Trofeo Alcudia), 163.2 km
Stage 3 - February 8: Pollenca-Mirador des Colomer (Trofeo Manacor), 165.4 km
Stage 4 - February 9: Soller-Port de Soller (Trofeo Soller), 150.6 km
Stage 5 - February 10: Magalluf-Palmanova (Trofeo Calvia), 148.3 km

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