Igor Anton going to his first stage victory
Vuelta, 2006 stage 16.
The Vuelta a Espana starts tomorrow with an evening treat... the team time trail in Benidorm.
I'm glad the organizers will start, like last year, with a night time trial. It definitely makes this exciting Grand Tour unique. And, HTC is favored to take it from the rest of the teams. This is the last season, and final grand tour as a team, so look to the Cavendish led HTC train to arrive on good time. However, don't count off Sky with Bradley Wiggins (overall contender) back from his Tour crash, he'll look to start the Vuelta with a statement. In fact, he's so ready, he vowed in the French ambulance to race the Vuelta.
Not since 1978, the race will visit the cycling mad Basque region. Huge favorite, Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi will lead with a certain Basque pride motivated for stage wins and most importantly the overall. Last year, he fell on stage 14 and lost his chances of victory and now the gifted climber gets set to challenge for the overall in a very mountainous race, suited to him.
A soggy Roberto Heras climbs the Angliru towards victory!
(Tim de Waele)
Enter the legendary Angliru...
The mountains start early on stage 4 to Sierra Nevada. Kudos to the organizers for the summit finish on the punisher... the Alto de l'Anglirú. Last time was 2008, and we're all glad it's invited back. I really hope that the climbers will be ready for this steep baby, this monster pitches up to 23% at it's steepest part and towers 1573 m (5161 ft) above sea level.
In 2002, it rained on the Angliru causing cars to stall on the steepest section trying hard to find enough grip while slipping on the slippery painted messages by fans. David Millar crashed three times, hit by a car and dismounted a metre before the finish line and handed in his bib number. A soggy and upset Millar said, "We're not animals, and this is inhuman!"
Stage 15 Avilés to Alto de l'Anglirú
Vincenzo Nibali the defending champion is back and the Shark has the advantage, like Wiggins, at riding a smoking fast time trial. If he can keep it all together in the mountains, ride a fast TT a second victory is on his radar.
Vuelta newbies to look for; Peter Sagan (Liquigas winner Tour of Poland), Taylor Phinney (BMC, prologue winner Eneco Tour), Steven Kruijswik (Rabobank climber: 9th Giro, 3rd Tour de Suisse) and sprinting sensation Marcel Kittel (Skil Shimano, 4 stages Tof Poland).
An exciting 66th Vuelta awaits!
Another Shark attack?