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48th Vuelta al País Vasco - ProT

Spain, April 7-12, 2008

Big names battle big mountains

By Monika Prell

Spaniard Juan José Cobo won the 2007 País Vasco
Photo ©: Christine Grein
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The 48th edition of the Vuelta al País Vasco, April 7 to 12, will run over six stages, 838 kilometres and 25 mountains, enough to shake the classification thoroughly and see true fighters rise to the top. Those who win here will be ear-marked for success in the Ardennes Classics during the following week.

Monday in Legazpi, 18 ProTour teams and Spanish Professional Continental Team Karpin Galicia will line-up to start the action in Spain's Basque country.

The first stage from Legazpi to Legazpi hits hard with seven mountains over 137 kilometres – three of the second category and four of the third category. A win should come from a breakaway group, where the victor will be awarded with the first overall leader's jersey. The following day, April 8, the peloton will leave Gipuzkoa and, after 137 kilometres, reach the capital of Bizkaia, Bilbao. At the finish line in Erandio, the riders will have overcome seven mountains and, like in the first stage, three of them of the second category and four of the third category.

Cutting from the north to the south, the riders will cross the Basque country in stage three. The descent 10 kilometres off the final mountain pass could be decisive, particularly if the weather will be bad.

Bad becomes worse in stage four, 171 kilometres from Viana to the capital of the Basque country, Vitoria. This arrival is already a tradition, even if this year for the first time the finish line will be in the Avenida Juan Carlos I, not as usual in the Avenida de Gasteiz, for traffic reasons. The romp will be the queen stage: five mountains, two of the third category, two of the second and one of the 1st category will wait for the riders.

From Vitoria to Orio, the riders will reach the Atlantic in stage five, the final road stage. Look for the tough sprinters to survive this lower mountain stage and sprint for victory on the beachfront. The stage, 162 kilometres and with four mountains – three of the second category and one of the third – will see the GC men waiting in the wings for the next day's decisive time trial stage. The 20-kilometre stage around Orio will provide great scenery – provided that it won't rain – as the 48th edition is concluded.

There will be a top-notch cast of contenders: Last year's Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Astana), who is on hot form, will have to battle for the victory with, amongst others, Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Spaniards Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and José Ángel Gómez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Scott), Italians Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), as well as young Dutchman Thomas Dekker (Rabobank).