The 2012 UCI America Tour continues its march across South America with the sixth edition of the Tour de San Luis. The seven-stage race starts tomorrow (Monday) January with a glittering cast, including 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali, Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador, the evergreen Levi Leipheimer and Classics men Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel and Pippo Pozzato all seeking some action in the warm Argentinian sunshine. [Although, predictably, stormy weather is forecast for Monday – Ed.]
In addition to five ProTeams – Saxo Bank, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Liquigas-Cannondale, AG2R-La Mondiale and Movistar – the lineup will also include the Pro-Continental outfits Team Andalucia, Androni Giocattoli, Cajan Rural, Farnese Vini, NetApp and UnitedHealthcare. Continental teams include Tavira and Christina Watches – the latter includes Michael Rasmussen – plus various local and national South American squads.
What kind of race is it?
The race is part of the UCI America Tour calendar (and rated 2.1). It’s typically ridden over challenging terrain at altitude, with some flat, sprinter-friendly stages, a time trial and several stages with steep mountaintop finishes that traditionally confirm the winner of the leader’s orange jersey.
So where is San Luis? To get there, the riders take a long-haul flight to Buenos Aires followed by a transfer to San Luis, in the province of the same name. It’s in the centre of Argentina where temperatures are likely to be very warm indeed.
This year’s parcours totals 1,051km. The fourth stage, a 19.5km time trial, is relatively flat and sandwiched between stages with steep mountaintop finishes. However, despite climbs on every stage apart from the time trial, it’s relatively sprinter-friendly and they’ll be relishing three or possibly four of the other stages.
Not unnaturally, South Americans feature heavily in the roll-call of previous winners:
- 2007: Jorge Giacinti (Lider Presto Chile)
- 2008: Martin Garrido (Palmeiras Resort-Tavira)
- 2009: Alfredo Lucero (Argentina national team)
- 2010: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo)
- 2011: Marco Arragiada (Chile national team)
What happened last year?
Last year the late Xavier Tondo (Movistar) was in the driving seat but a crash on stage six dashed his hopes of winning. Marco Arriagada (Team Chile) assumed and retained the leader’s jersey on the final stage, a circuit race round the city of San Luis.
Movistar had entered the event with two strong contenders, Tondo and teammate Mauricio Soler, now back home in Colombia and recovering from his (probably) career-ending crash in the 2011 Tour de Suisse. Like Nibali the year before, Tondo had taken the race lead following his win in stage four’s 19.5km time trial. He increased that lead to 34 seconds on stage five’s mountaintop finish. Sadly he crashed on a descent and lost the lead while following Arriagada’s wheel on the next day’s queen stage.
Arriagada, the winner, subsequently received a recommended four-year suspension from the UCI as a result of five positive tests in other races but the Chilean Olympic Committee reduced it to two years, effective January 2011, based on the rider’s appeal. So he won’t be back to defend his ‘title’.
Final general classification
1. Marco Arriagada (Chile) 25:51:54
2. Jose Serpa (Androni-Giocattoli) +0:38
3. Josue Moyano (Argentina) +1:49
4. Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:50
5. Miguel Angel Rubiano (D’Angelo & Antenucci) +2:42
6. Jorge Giacinti (Argentina) +4:36
7. Gerardo Fernandez (Argentina) +4:56
8. Antonio Piedra (Andalucia-Caja Granada) +5:24
9. Camilo Gomez (Colombia) +5:38
10. Luis Mansilla (Chile) +5:50
This year’s race
The first two stages of the Tour de San Luis will probably end in bunch sprints. Although stage one finishes after a very long descent, so maybe Nibali will give us a masterclass in descending to take and hold onto the leader’s orange jersey. Or maybe he’ll save it for stage six to consolidate his lead gained on stage four’s time trial.
Stage four is a not particularly technical individual time-trial where the race lead has been assumed in the last two editions. The climbing continues on stage five with a mountaintop finish (7km at 8.75% average) on the Mirador Del Sol.
Stage six probably won’t be a major factor in the overall classification as the ascent over the Alto de Nogoli comes early on and it may well be another one for the sprinters. As will the final stage, a circuit thrice around San Luis.
For more details on all the stages in the Tour de San Luis visit the official website.
Who to watch
South American teams, whose season is already well underway, and South American riders will want to show their potential. This race promises to be tricky and exciting, even without what’s been described as a possible ‘showdown’ between two riders who haven’t met on the road since 2007. In the blue corner please welcome Alberto Contador while in the red corner it’s Michael ‘The Chicken Love Rat’ Rasmussen.
Bertie’s famous for not treating races as training rides but may well just enjoy the altitude training and set his sights on winning one of the mountaintop finishes or maybe the time-trial. Rasmussen has been indulging in a bit of pre-race sandbagging by claiming he’s been ill and won’t be in contention. Right, like we’re going to believe anything you say!
As has been demonstrated at the Tour Down Under, early season races tend to be won by riders with a point to prove, or less experienced riders wanting to show they have what it takes to be considered for team leadership. A case in point was Nibali’s win in 2010, after which he went on to win the Vuelta a Espana.
One team which has produced good results in this race is Androni Giocattoli, which in former incarnations (prior to 2010) were registered in South America. Their number one rider Jose Rodolfo Serpa has in previous years won stages and climbed aboard the podium. He’ll be supported this year by Emanuele Selle which might just be enough to get him onto the top step.
And let’s not forget Movistar’s David Arroyo and recent signing – Giovanni Visconti and Kathi’s latest fave [does Fabian know? – Ed] Costa Rican Andrey Amador, who would all probably like to win at least a stage and dedicate it to their late teammate, Xavier Tondo.
You have to figure home-town boys, the Haedo brothers, Juan Jose and Lucas Sebastian, will be looking to grab some glory in the sprints and will enjoy jousting with Tom Boonen, former stage winners Francesco Chicchi and Roberto Ferrari [great name for a sprinter – Ed] and, maybe, Liquigas’s Elia Viviani or AG2R’s Jimmy Casper. Riders, particularly sprinters, love racking up their team’s first win of the season. They earn their teammates’ gratitude as it tends to dissipate the media glare and intense pressure from everyone. So expect stage one to be hotly contested and they’ll need to watch out for the sharp left-hander leading onto the finishing straight.
However with South American riders making up the bulk of the peloton, frankly this could be anyone’s race to win or lose. A lot will depend on the motivations of Messrs Contador, Leipheimer and Nibali.
Finally, here at VeloVoices we asked our Twitter followers to nominate random numbers which means we will be following bib number 145: Colombian Didier Alonso Chaparro Lopez of Comcel – Coldportes, Columbia. Look out for updates on him on both Twitter and Facebook as the race progresses.
January 23rd: Stage 1 – San Luis to Villa Mercedes, 188.3km
January 24th: Stage 2 – Fraga to Juana Koslay, 145.3km
January 25th: Stage 3 – Estancia Grande to Mirador Potrero, 168.7km
January 26th: Stage 4 – San Luis to San Luis, 19.5km individual time trial
January 27th: Stage 5 – La Toma to Merlo (Mirador del Sol), 160.6km
January 28th: Stage 6 – Lujan to Quines, 201km
January 28th: Stage 7 – San Luis, 167.1km
The Tour de San Luis starts on Monday 22nd January and ends on Sunday 28th. There will probably be some video feeds and Fox Sport may transmit the event. Check for coverage here.