Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana offer their views on a route full of mountain-top finishes, with only two time trials -a mini-TTT in Puerto Banús and a long ITT in Burgos- and two monster climbing days in Andorra and Asturias
A route with almost no rest during the three weeks from Puerto Banús to Madrid. The 70th Vuelta a España will keep its identity with plenty of mountain-top finishes -all of them inedit: Caminito del Rey (stage 2), Vejer de la Frontera (stage 4), Cazorla (6), Capileira (7), Cumbre del Sol (9), Fuente del Chivo (14), Sotres (15)-, two time trials -the inaugural TTT, over 7.4 kilometers, in Puerto Banús; and the ITT, a long, 39-kilometer route in Burgos which will open week three- and two hellish chains of mountains: the finishes atop Els Cortals d´Encamp (11), with more than 5,000 meters of vertical drop and six climbs in only 138km, and the Ermita del Alba (16), after another six ascents. These were the reflections by 3rd-placed rider in 2014 Alejandro Valverde and Colombian Nairo Quintana, who also led the GC last year.
Alejandro Valverde: “The route is pretty similar to the last few years. It's a demanding Vuelta, with an only ITT, explosive finishes in the first stages and long climbs afterwards. It will be really beautiful, open and spectacular, especially for the fans, who will enjoy much. The opening finishes in Andalusian look pretty well for me, though many others like Purito can perform strongly, too. Those set to fight for the overall will have to stay attentive not to lose any seconds and even contest the bonuses. You will have to stay focused not to concede time and fill any gaps on the road – positioning will be crucial. The team will also play a key role: controlling the escapes or letting them go, keep the race under control or making others react… Also, as well those days as the Alpujarra stage will be really hot and cause wear and tear on all of us.
After the first rest day it will be time for the Andorra stage – a really tough one, extreme. Many other inedit finishes and climbs will follow, but that one will be massive. The TT will be important, but we will have gone through a long way in the Vuelta and the strength won't be the same for neither specialists or climbers – it will be a matter of what's left on your tank. It looks good for the Movistar Team, but also for other squads. We will see how our roster looks like and how the race unfolds, but it will be my biggest goal of the season over the Tour, where Nairo will be taking more of a leader's role and we will be there to support him. For the time being, we will continue our training before the debut in Mallorca later in the month. We will keep gaining racing form in Dubai, Qatar and Omán and we will probably head to the Volta a Catalunya in March before the classics."
Nairo Quintana: "We have to get 'through' the first stages, since they're not really hard but can get you into trouble at some point. Roads are not bad down there, but these are explosive finishes where you have to stay attentive, especially into the first two mountain-top finishes. It's true that we will be in summer and heat might play an impact, but I hope we suffer less from it into the mountains. The Andorra stage is extremely hard: there's no rest, you start with two long, demanding slopes and there's no way back, we will spend the whole day up and down. It's not a long one, but the suffering will be massive. After that, there's the North – I climbed the Fuente del Chivo in the Circuito Montañés, though it's been six years and I don't remember it so much. It will be one to pay attention, on rough roads. Then, there's the mountain-top finish in Sotres and the Ermita del Alba stage, a very rolling one with two difficult final climbs. The TT doesn't look completely flat, but it's a 40km one, and we will have to keep caution against the wind. There might not happen much anymore till day twenty: with Cotos just 20k from the end, attention must be high. It will depend much on what happens during the season, but normally, I should be in the Vuelta to try and do a nice race."