|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
45th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - PT
Spain, April 4-8, 2005
By Martin Hardie
The Vuelta a Pais Vasco was first run 71 years ago and in that time, with interruptions because of war and dictatorship, this year will see only its 45th edition. The race, which has been in recent years a 'Hors Categorie' tour has come along way since Ernest Hemingway ate and drank with the peloton one night in San Sebastian 70 years ago.
This year, as the race takes on the status of the first UCI Pro Tour event south of the Pyrenees, we can expect things to be a little different to the one he observed where the "bicycle-riders drank much wine, and were burned and browned by the sun. They did not take the race seriously except among themselves. They had raced among themselves so often that it did not make much difference who won".
The Itzulia, as the Vuelta is known in the Basque language, is a five-day event that rolls up and down the country's steep green hills. After four days of continual leg sapping climbing, the last day is traditionally split between a shorter but crucial road stage and a short but usually decisive time trial. Although the ProTour sought at one point to have the race lengthened to six days, this year sees no change to the traditional format which passes through all of the Basque provinces - Giupuzkoa, Bizkaia, Araba and Navarra - that fall within the territory of Spain.
The race, of course, is a source of local pride with Basque riders, always out to prove themselves on their home turf. But it is also a keenly-sought crown in the jewels of any riders palmares, an important step in the preparation of many for the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia. Over what are effectively six stages, the peloton will face 20 categorised climbs and little respite. Day one kicks of in the seaside party and surfing town of Zarautz with a circuit that winds along the picturesque coastal road before cutting in land and crossing the Cat. 3 Meagas. The route laps this circuit three times before a final nasty ascent of the Cat. 2 Garate, which, although only 2kms in length, kicks in at 16% and summits 7kms before the plunge back to the beach.
Stage 2 heads out of Giupuzkoa and into Bizkaia. It commences with a couple of Cat. 3s, the Itziar and the Arieto, which rises out of Ermua and drops into the valley which the riders will follow down past Durango to Bilbao. After a sprint outside the Athletic Bilbao soccer ground, the race enters the Las Encartaciones region with its continual run of sharp pitches. This is a great day for an escape to make some time early, but they will have to fight to hold their lead over the Cat. 2, Arborleda, the nasty Cat. 3 Cobaron Cat. 3 and the 8.5km ascent to the finish on the Cat. 2, La Lejana.
Stage 3 takes the race out of Bizkaia through the territory of the GP Llodio, and into the plateau country of Araba. The climb up to the plateau is via the Cat. 2 La Barrerilla, which will be familiar to Ciclismo Euskadi camp-goers, as the winding climb up the rock face from Orduña back home to their base in Murgia. After that and before finishing in the Basque Government's capital in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the stage goes up two sides of the Cat. 2 Zaldiaran to the south in the Sierra, which forms the land border between the Basque Country and the wine producing area of la Rioja.
From Gasteiz, Stage 4 heads east towards Navarra and has a heap of difficult encounters along the entire route. The Cat. 1 Opakua falls early on and could be another launching pad for a break that will then have the Cat. 2 Urbasa, the Cat. 3 Altamira and two ascents including the final mountain top finish of La Cadena (Cat. 3). If that's not enough, the race's 'queen stage' will be fought over a mere 93 kms and will finish atop the beastly Cat. 2 Arantzazu, which, over its 8kms, kicks in at 10 percent plus before steadying out for a 6km grind of around 6%. This will be the last chance for the climbers to position themselves before the afternoons 9.3 km closing time trial in the ancient university city of Oñati. The race against the clock will be flat by Basque standards, but even then will have an altitude gain of 150 metres or so up and over the Alto de Olalde, before dropping back into town.
T-Mobile have already expressed their desire to do well in the Itzulia with their mixed bag of Germans, Kazakhs and Spanish. Dennis Menchov will front his new squad, Rabobank, for the event but has admitted that he isn't at the peak of form he was last year when he took the event from Iban Mayo and David Etxebarria. Etxebarria will line up alongside Roberto Heras and mark this attempt to take out the race by returning to the folds of Manolo Saiz at Liberty Seguros after being one of the stalwarts of Euskaltel-Euskadi in recent years.
For their part, the Orange Armada have been pretty quiet so far this year. It was in April and the Itzulia last year that Iban Mayo started his period of being on fire, coming second here and following it up with impressive victories in Asturias, Alcondendas and the Dauphiné Libéré. But Mayo has been quiet and taking it easy to date, and the Orange guy that seems to be on song or coming close with every ride is Mayo's teammate Haimar Zubeldia. Looking forward to the Giro and with over 10,000 kms of training in his legs already this season, Zubeldia told Cyclingnews that because of the change in his calendar, "I am coming to this race with a lot more form" than last year.
Zubeldia continued that we can expect "the maximum" from Euskaltel "because we are riding at home... and that the team knows that we have to win this race." With Mayo, Samuel Sanchez back after injury, Iker Camano and Egoi Martinez as his key henchmen, Zubeldia is feeling good. He believes that the race will be decided on the Friday morning as the race climbs Arantzazu.
"The time trial is like last year, but the climb in it is much harder. I think it will make some difference," said Zubeldia. "But you have to take into account that the morning has a mountain-top finish, and so before the time trial, the race might be pretty well decided."
Although competition could come from a number of quarters, Heras, the T-Mobile squad, Cadel Evans and Cunego are the likely candidates. Zubeldia also has an eye on CSC: "CSC are very strong, especially Julich, Voigt and Basso. Contador looks good in Liberty and I thought Menchov and his team looked good in the Criterium International. Of course, I am not going to forget Valverde!" he concluded.
With around 15 riders who could be in the shout for victory at the end, one thing is for certain, as always in the Basque Country: that is along with the incessant climbing, the weather can be a decisive factor at this time of year.
Rabobank Euskaltel-Euskadi 1 Denis Menchov (Rus) 11 Iban Mayo (Spa) 2 Michael Boogerd (Ned) 12 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) 3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) 13 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) 4 Pieter Weening (Ned) 14 Markel Irizar (Spa) 5 Theo Eltink (Ned) 15 Iker Camaño (Spa) 6 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) 16 Gorka Gonzalez (Spa) 7 Grischa Niermann (Ger) 17 Egoi Martinez (Spa) 8 Thorwald Veneberg (Ned) 18 Joseba Zubeldia (Spa) Team CSC Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 21 Ivan Basso (Ita) 31 Jason McCartney (USA) 22 Bobby Julich (USA) 32 José Azevedo (Por) 23 Peter Luttenberger (Aut) 33 Manuel Beltran (Spa) 24 Jens Voigt (Ger) 34 Tom Danielson (USA) 25 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) 35 Benjamin Noval (Spa) 26 Carlos Sastre (Spa) 36 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) 27 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) 37 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) 28 Manuel Calvente (Spa) 38 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team Lampre-Caffita 41 Roberto Heras (Spa) 51 Damiano Cunego (Ita) 42 Alberto Contador (Spa) 52 David Loosli (Swi) 43 Koldo Gil (Spa) 53 Francisco Javier Vila (Spa) 44 David Etxebarria (Spa) 54 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) 45 Isidro Nozal (Spa) 55 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) 46 Javier Ramirez (Spa) 57 Andrea Tonti (Ita) 47 Marcos Serrano (Spa) 58 Juan Manuel Fuentes (Spa) 48 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne Phonak Hearing Systems 61 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) 71 M.A. Martin Perdiguero (Spa) 62 Aitor Osa (Spa) 72 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) 63 Unai Osa (Spa) 73 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) 64 Antonio Colom (Spa) 74 Alexandre Moos (Swi) 65 José Luis Arrieta (Spa) 75 Niki Aebersold (Swi) 66 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) 76 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) 67 Joan Horrach (Spa) 77 Johann Tschopp (Swi) 68 Xabier Zandio (Spa) 78 Steve Zampieri (Swi) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone T-Mobile Team 81 David Moncoutie (Fra) 91 Andreas Klöden (Ger) 82 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) 92 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) 83 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) 93 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) 84 Luis Perez (Spa) 94 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) 85 Bingen Fernandez (Spa) 95 Matthias Kessler (Ger) 86 Daniel Atienza (Spa) 96 Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz) 87 Christophe Edaleine (Fra) 97 Christian Werner (Ger) 88 Matthew White (Aus) 98 Francisco José Lara (Spa) Gerolsteiner Quick Step 101 Davide Rebellin (Ita) 111 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) 102 Levi Leipheimer (USA) 112 Kevin De Weert (Bel) 103 Beat Zberg (Swi) 113 Addy Engels (Ned) 104 Ronny Scholz (Ger) 114 Marc Lotz (Ned) 105 Marcel Strauss (Swi) 115 Michael Rogers (Aus) 106 Volker Ordowski (Ger) 116 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) 107 Andrea Moletta (Ita) 117 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) 108 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) 118 José Antonio Garrido (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir Fassa Bortolo 121 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) 131 Dario Frigo (Ita) 122 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) 132 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) 123 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) 133 Kim Kirchen (Lux) 124 J.A Gomez Marchante (Spa) 134 Massimo Codol (Ita) 125 Iñigo Cuesta (Spa) 135 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 126 David Cañada (Spa) 136 Mauro Facci (Ita) 127 Ruben Lobato (Spa) 137 Massimo Giunti (Ita) 128 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) 138 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Davitamon-Lotto Liquigas-Bianchi 141 Axel Merckx (Bel) 151 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) 142 Cadel Evans (Aus) 152 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) 143 Serge Baguet (Bel) 153 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) 144 Mario Aerts (Bel) 154 Andrea Noe' (Ita) 145 Christophe Brandt (Bel) 155 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) 146 Björn Leukemans (Bel) 156 Dario David Cioni (Ita) 147 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) 157 Kjell Carlström (Fin) 148 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) 158 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Bouygues Telecom Credit Agricole 161 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) 171 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) 162 Didier Rous (Fra) 172 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) 163 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) 173 Patrice Halgand (Fra) 164 Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) 174 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) 165 Anthony Charteau (Fra) 175 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) 166 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) 176 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) 167 Maryan Hary (Fra) 177 Benoît Poilvet (Fra) 168 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) 178 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Française Des Jeux Domina Vacanze 181 Sandy Casar (Fra) 191 Wladimir Belli (Ita) 182 Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) 192 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) 183 Frédéric Finot (Fra) 193 Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) 184 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) 194 Ruggero Borghi (Ita) 185 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) 195 Marco Fertonani (Ita) 186 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) 196 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) 187 Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) 197 Michele Gobbi (Ita) 188 Fabien Sanchez (Fra) 198 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Relax Fuenlabrada Comunidad Valenciana 201 Ivan Mayoz (Spa) 211 David Blanco (Spa) 202 Luis Perez (Spa) 212 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) 203 Josep Jufre (Spa) 213 David Latasa (Spa) 204 Xavier Florencio (Spa) 214 Eladio Jimenez (Spa) 205 Jose Miguel Elias (Spa) 215 José Adrian Bonilla (CRc) 206 Daniel Moreno (Spa) 216 Carlos Zarate (Spa) 207 Nacor Burgos (Spa) 217 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) 208 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) 218 David Muñoz (Spa) Kaiku 221 Dionisio Galparsoro (Spa) 222 Andoni Aranaga (Spa) 223 Yon Bru (Spa) 224 Ricardo Serrano (Spa) 225 Ruben Oarbeascoa (Spa) 226 Adrian Palomares (Spa) 227 Antonio Berasategui (Spa) 228 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa)
2004 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto 2003 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2002 Aitor Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com 2001 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Fassa Bortolo 2000 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Deutsche Telekom 1999 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE 1998 Inigo Cuesta (Spa) ONCE 1997 Alex Zülle (Swi) 1996 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) 1995 Alex Zülle (Swi) 1994 Tony Rominger (Swi) 1993 Tony Rominger (Swi) 1992 Tony Rominger (Swi) 1991 Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) 1990 Julian Gorospe (Spa) 1989 Stephen Roche (Irel) 1988 Erik Breukink (Ned) 1987 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1986 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1985 Pello Ruiz-Cabestany (Spa) 1984 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1983 Julian Gorospe (Spa) 1982 José-Luis Laguia (Spa) 1981 Silvano Contini (Ita) 1980 Alberto Fernandez (Spa) 1979 Giovanni Battaglin (Ita) 1978 Juan-A. Gonzalez-Linares (Spa) 1977 Juan-A. Gonzalez-Linares (Spa) 1976 Giambattista Baronchelli (Ita) 1975 Juan-A. Gonzalez-Linares (Spa) 1974 Miguel-Maria Lasa (Spa) 1973 Luis Ocana (Spa) 1972 Juan-A. Gonzalez-Linares (Spa) 1971 Luis Ocana (Spa) 1970 Luis-P. Santamarina (Spa) 1969 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 1968 José-Maria Errandonea (Spa) 1967 Carlos Echeverria (Spa) 1966 Eusebio Velez (Spa) 1965 Sebastian Elorza (Spa) 1964 Carlos Echeverria (Spa) 1963 Juan-J. Sargaduy (Spa) 1962 Rolf Wolfshohl (Ger) 1961 Antonio Karmany (Spa) 1960 Benigno Aspuru (Spa) 1959 Antonio Bertran (Spa) 1958 Jesus Lorono-Arteaga (Spa) 1957 Antonio Barrutia (Spa) 1956 Jesus Lorono-Arteaga (Spa) 1955 José Escolano (Spa) 1954 José Serra (Spa) 1953 Vicente Iturat (Spa) 1952 Louis Caput (Fra) 1945 Miguel Gual (Spa) 1944 José Gandara (Spa) 1943 Martin Mancisidor (Spa) 1942 Federico Ezquerra (Spa) 1941 Firmin Trueba (Spa) 1940 Federico Ezquerra (Spa) 1939 Mariano Carnado (Spa) 1935 Gino Bartali (Ita) 1930 Mariano Carnado (Spa) 1929 Maurice De Waele (Bel) 1928 Maurice De Waele (Bel) 1927 Victor Fontan (Fra) 1926 Nicolas Frantz (Lux) 1925 Auguste Verdyck (Bel) 1924 Francis Pélissier (Fra) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com