Just like the Vuelta a España's one individual race against the clock in 2012, this year's test in Tarazona represents the one opportunity for the time triallists to regain the upper hand on the climbers. But if 2012’s technical and lumpy time trial made it impossible for the chrono-men to do so, 2013 is another story altogether.
Starting and finishing in Tarazona and 38.8 kilometres long, the time trial begins with a steady, grinding climb on well-surfaced roads. The climb is never steep, and there are sections where it flattens out briefly, but for the first six kilometres as the time trial heads out into the countryside around Tarazona on a double-width ‘A’ road, it is anything but technical.
The ‘official’ climb starts when the road reaches 720 metres above sea level - compared to 485 metres above sea level in Tarazona - and swings right into the national park, which consists of a huge area of forest. Now on a single track, the climb is very long - nine kilometres and rising to 1090 metres above sea level - but it is not at all steep. .
The downhill, following a couple of tricky corners, is very fast. Running down a single track, it’s easy to imagine riders hitting speeds of 80 kmh or more.
Coming out of the forest, there is a difficult right hand bend which the riders will reach at speed and a short technical section through a little village. The road kicks up briefly before swinging left onto an ‘A’ road where the only segment of flat road comes. This lasts three kilometers. This is also the only part of the course which is really exposed and if the wind is strong, it could put less well-built riders in trouble.
The final six kilometres of descent is again straightforward on wide, largely well-surfaced roads. All-in-all a course which essentially consists of 18 kilometres of very gentle climbing - apart from one steeper ‘ramp’ of around two kilometres - and 18 kilometres of very gentle descending is made for out-and-out time triallsts who can handle a bit of a gradient.
On paper, it’s a good opportunity for riders like Tony Martin (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) to repeat his 2011 triumph, whilst the Vuelta’s climbers will have a tough time holding their own. With eleven summit finishes in this year’s race, though, they can hardly complain.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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