2017 Vuelta a España to start in Nimes, France, with a return to fabled climb l’Angliru

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On Thursday, Unipublic announced the itinerary of the 2017 Vuelta a España. For only the third time in its more than 80 years of history, the Spanish tour will start from a city outside its borders — this time with a team time trial in the French city of Nîmes.

Vuelta director Javier Guillén said that the decision aims to show the “numerous ties that bind” the French and Spanish communities.

“Its love of all things Spanish, its character and its passion for the art of bullfighting and flamenco will take centre stage in this perfect fusion between the Vuelta, France, and emblematic Spain.”

Nîmes, capital of the Gard region in southern France, is known as “Little Rome” due to ubiquitous elements from the Roman Empire in its architecture and culture. The city’s history says that in the year 31BC, Augustus conquered the Roman Empire following his triumph over Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, and rewarded his troops with the city of Nîmes.

La Vuelta will kick off with two stages that will take place entirely on French soil, before arriving in Andorra, another country that has become a recurring feature in the Spanish tour over the past few year. The fourth stage of the 2017 edition will finish in Spain, in Tarragona, where it will then visit  Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, Cantabria, and Asturias, before its usual finale in Madrid.

The 2017 Vuelta will see departures and finales that are unprecedented in the history of the Spanish race. The peloton will see a total of 14 departures that have not been previously used in the race’s 71 previous editions, as well eight new finales. In all, the race will feature nine summit finishes.

Returning to the Vuelta is perhaps its most fierce climb, the Alto de l’Angliru, which will be more decisive than ever — the Asturian mountain pass will be the last climb of this year’s edition and will close the race’s penultimate stage, before the arrival in Madrid where the winner of the 2017 Vuelta will be crowned on September 10.

Following the official presentation of the Vuelta a España’s route in Madrid’s Municipal Conference Hall, Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué and  rider Alejandro Valverde shared their thoughts on the route. (Valverde was unable to attend the event after a training accident suffered Wednesday, when he was struck by a residential gate near his home in Murcia.)

“An early look at the route makes us happy, especially with the fact that there’s a TTT, which should never be missed on Grand Tours,” Unzué said. “It’s a good way to kick off with a route that starts ramping up right from the start, with the climbs of La Rabassa and La Comella into the Andorra stage and those three mountaintop finishes in Valencia before the first race day. The race will get exciting from the very start.

“The second week, with three uphill finishes on Alps-like climbs, will clear things up very much GC-wise; pure climbers should be leading the standings after that. We must also keep attention to the heat in those days in Andalusia; it’s proven to be a key factor in previous editions.

“The third week will be even more important. First up, there’s the Los Arcos to Logroño ITT, a special day for us as we will be racing home in the Navarra roads. Then, another two mountaintop finishes, and the always demanding Cantabria hills. And at the end, L’Angliru, a final, hellish chance for those who still want to conquer the race. I feel like it’s a Vuelta route even harder than in previous occasions, and I’m sure it’ll be spectacular.”

Valverde said the difficult route would bring suffering, and spectacle.

“It looks like a really demanding Vuelta a España,” he said. “Some people will probably say they shot completely off the mark, and for those like us who are suffering it on the bike it will be even more of a challenge, but I understand and prefer to have it this way. At the end of the day, fans want spectacle, and with this route, I’m confident the race will be really attractive for them.

“You’ll have to plan your training schedule well and peak early, because those three mountaintop finishes in the first week will take a big share in the overall result. For the climbs on the second week, I know them really well, they’re really demanding, and high altitude combined with the gradient will make a big impact. That will pay off a lot when entering the Cantabria stages, and also L’Angliru, famous for its incredible ramps. It’s a climber’s course, no doubts about that. There’s no place for TT specialists who climb just well; not even for sprinters, because some stages, like the one in Murcia, are mountain stages even if they don’t finish uphill. The fact that the race goes through my region makes it even more special. My schedule is not completely defined, but a clear goal in mind for me is making the Vuelta team.”

The 21 stages of the 2017 Vuelta a España, August 19-September 10
Stage 1: Nîmes-Nîmes (France), 13.8km team time trial
Stage 2: Nîmes-Gruissan-Grand Narbonne (France), 201km
Stage 3: Prades-Andorra La Vella, 158.5km
Stage 4: Escaldes Engordany-Tarragona, 193km
Stage 5: Benicassim-Alcossebre, 173.4km
Stage 6: Vila-Real-Sagunto, 198km
Stage 7: Lliria-Cuenca, 205.2km
Stage 8: Hellin-Xorret de Cati, 184km
Stage 9: Orihuela-Cumbre del Sol, 176.3km
First rest day
Stage 10: Caravaca-Elpozo Alimentacion, 171km
Stage 11: Lorca-Calar Alto, 188km
Stage 12: Motril-Antequera, 161.4km
Stage 13: Coin-Tomares, 197km
Stage 14: Ecija-Sierra de La Pandera, 185.5km
Stage 15: Alcala La Real-Sierra Nevada, 127km
Second rest day
Stage 16: Circuito de Navarra-Logrono, 42km individual time trial
Stage 17: Villadiego-Los Machucos, 180km
Stage 18: Suances-Santo Toribio de Liebana, 168.5km
Stage 19: Caso-Gijon, 153km
Stage 20: Corvera de Asturias-l’Angliru, 119.2km
Stage 21: Arroyomolinos-Madrid, 101.9km

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