By David Hunter
After some solid racing in Valenciana, we up the level with Ruta del Sol. A certain Alejandro Valverde has won here 4 out of the last 5 years, can he make it 5 from 6?
This race is the reverse of most, with the GC stages coming very early. Stage 1 will see the start of the battle, with a cat 1 climb cresting with 19km remaining. Puerto de Monachil is a climb up in the hills of Granada, it is 8.2km at 7.6%, but the hardest part of the climb comes very early, with kilometres of 13% and 12%. If you remove the opening flat section of the climb, it’s more like 6km at 9.7%. This will be a real test very early in the race. The descent to the line does allow riders to rejoin the front of the race.
The second stage features the only mountaintop finish of the race. The climb to Pena del Aguila is 5.3km at 9.2%. It’s another one of those brutally steep climbs that we associate with Spain. Just look at the stage profile, this is a day with lots of climbing.
After two big GC days, the main riders have another day of vital importance, the 12km ITT. Despite only being 12km long, it could be hugely important for the overall battle.
With the GC now over, we begin two days for sprinters and breakaway experts. This stage is perfect for the break. With enormous differences on GC and a spiky profile, this is a good day to make the early break. Although the final categorised climb does crest with nearly 100km still to go, giving the sprinter teams a chance to organise a chase.
On paper this is an easier day to control, but it still has it’s challenges. The final climb might only be a cat 3, but it has a very steep finish. It crests with 16km remaining, so it gives late attackers something to aim for.
Alberto Contador -the 34 year old has won just about everything there is to win in the sport, yet even he’ll be excited at beginning his journey with Trek. The Spaniard is one of the best the sport has ever seen, a team move might just breath some extra life back into him. His 2016 season won’t go down as a classic, but there was still a lot to admire. He was 2nd in Paris-Nice and Catalunya before taking the win in Pais Vasco. He wasn’t at his best in the Dauphine and had to abandon the Tour. He then went to the Vuelta, but his 4th place wasn’t him at his best. 34 certainly isn’t old, I really hope the move works out well for Contador. In this race, he has a great chance of the podium, but he would prefer longer climbs.
Alejandro Valverde – Mr Ruta del Sol! You could say this race is made for him, with a lack of long climbs. The short efforts are perfect for Valverde, as is the short TT. It looks like the organisers were keen on trying to help him to another victory. His pre-season was interrupted by a crash, but he wasn’t far off his best in Mallorca. Expect Valverde to be challenging for the overall win.
Thibaut Pinot – his Valenciana chances were ruined by illness, but he should have recovered for this race. Given his TT improvement, he must fancy his chances of taking the overall crown. He should be able to follow the best on stage 1, then he just needs to ride a defensive race on stage 2. This race represents a big chance for him to talk a big scalp at the start of a huge year.
Mikel Landa – we will have to wait and see who Sky ride for, it’s just good to see Landa get his season started. After an injury disrupted 2016, the Spaniard will be very keen to begin 2017. With the Giro as his big target, he will have to impress the team bosses, especially as Geraint Thomas will also be competing in the Giro. The TT should kill his chances of overall success, expect Team Sky to not select him as their captain.
Wout Poels – should be the Sky captain. He began his season with 4th place in Valenciana and this race suits him better. The TT is good news for him, it gives him a great chance of taking the overall. Already having a race in his legs is also a benefit compared to some of his rivals.
Ion Izagirre – I was disappointed to see that he left Movistar for Bahrain. The Spanish team had managed his progression incredibly well and he was certainly in the right place. His move to Bahrain was all about money, let’s not kid ourself. Despite riding for an inferior team, he still has a chance in a race like this. His TT ability is as good as any in the race and he is good on steep climbs. Bahrain will be delighted if he can net the team’s first win.
Video preview with Mark McNally
Given the length of the climbs and the descent to the line in stage 1, I think the race favours Alejandro Valverde. He is good at limiting his losses in short TTs, so I think he’ll take the jersey early in the race and not give it back.
Follow us on @CiclismoInter
Join us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional
Copyright © 2012-2017 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved