The Spanish racing season kicks off with the 21st Iberostar Challenge Ciclista Mallorca – down this year to four rather than five single-day races – raced around the island of Mallorca, the home of many a pro-cycling training camp during the winter months.
According to the organisers, Unisport Consulting, the costs saved from the reduction in length have allowed them to broadcast the race on Spanish terrestrial television.
The 21st edition of this series of races starts tomorrow (Sunday) and continues until Wednesday. The event is a series of 1.1 HC one day races on the UCI Europe Tour. It cannot be classed as a multi-day stage race because race rules allow riders not to participate on certain days if they don’t want to. There has been an overall classification winner in previous editions, but not since 2010.
This relaxed attitude by the race organisers makes the race popular with team managers who can bring a large squad (sometimes as many as 20 riders) and interchange them over the four days. Apart from the overall classification on time for each race there are the usual mountains, points and sprints competitions. There is also a competition for the top Majorcan based rider.
This format attracts some of the biggest names in the sport. This year expect to see Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Cadel Evans (BMC), Andy and Frank Schleck, Andreas Kloden (all RadioShack-Nissan), Juan Jose Cobo and Alejandro Valverde from Movistar, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Igor Anton and Mikel Astarloza from Euskaltel-Euskadi.
There are 21 teams taking part in the event:
Rabobank, Movistar, RadioShack-Nissan, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Belisol, BMC, Katusha, Sky, Saxo Bank and Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Pro Continental (6):
Saur-Sojasun, Caja Rural, Andalucia, Cofidis, Europcar and NetApp.
Endura Racing, Nutrixxion, Burgos BH-Castilla y Leon, Orbea Continental and CT de Rijke.
What kind of race is it?
It started life as an event for domestic Spanish teams and went international in 1995 to make it a more attractive spectacle for fans. Well-known cyclists such as Alejandro Valverde, Laurent Jalabert and Alex Zulle have won the Challenge. But Pablo Cabello is the cyclist who’s won the most editions – 1996, 2000 and 2002. Other famous former cyclists who have taken part include Miguel Indurain, Lance Armstrong, Tony Rominger, Claudio Chiapucci and Paolo Bettini.
The event provides a parcours for everyone: sprinters, climbers, all-rounders and puncheurs, hence its popularity with the ProTour teams.
The first day will be an occasion for the sprinters to do battle on the Palma circuit – flat and fast around the island’s principal city – 10 circuits of 11.6km.
The Trofeo Migjorn will start at Ronda de Migjorn and conclude 171.7 km later in Llucmajor en route to what could be the second consecutive bunch sprint finish.
The third day, the Trofeo Deia, will see the sprinters’ interests take a back seat to those of the climbers. The 151km stage around Deia will take in six category two climbs. None of them are individually difficult but they might collectively prove leg-sapping.
The final day’s stage, the Trofeo Serre de Tranmuntana – from Soller to Monasterio de Llucmajor – is contested over a more hilly course using the climbs of the Col de Soller (501m) and the Col de Puig Major (850m) amongst others on the route. These last two hilly days usually decide the outcome of the unofficial overall classification.
The Spanish have won the overall more frequently than other nations. The most recent previous winners of the events are:
- 2007: Luis Leon Sanches (Liberty-Seguros Wurth)
- 2008: Philippe Gilbert (FDJ)
- 2009: Antonio Colom (Katusha)
- 2010: not calculated
- 2011: not calculated
What happened last year?
Last year’s racing over five days was dominated by the argument about race radios. UCI commissaries initially refused to officiate on the first day of racing as riders defied the ban and wore their race radios. The race did eventually go on without the UCI officials but Garmin-Cervelo’s victory by Tyler Farrar in the Trofeo Palma wasn’t entered into the UCI’s record books.
Farrar and his team manager Jonathan Vaughters said that the sacrifice of the result was worth it to make the point to the UCI that riders’ opinions should be respected.
Final stage classification and history
1. Trofeo Palma
2011: Tyler Farrar
2010: Robbie McEwen
2009: Gert Steegmans
2. Trofeo Cala Millor
- 2011: Tyler Farrar
- 2010: Oscar Freire
- 2009: Oscar Freire
3. Trofeo Inca
- 2011: Ben Hermans
- 2010: Linus Gerdemann
- 2009: Danieli Bennati
4. Trofeo Deia
- 2011: Jose Joaquin Rojas
- 2010: Rui Costa
- 2009: Antonio Colom
5. Trofeo Magaluf-Palma Nova (only since 2010)
- 2011: Murilo Fischer
- 2010: Andre Greipel
This year’s races
The event essentially follows similar, although not identical, routes most years. For example, only the parcours for the first days of this year’s and last year’s race are identical. However, some stages have changed names and borrowed parts of the parcours from previous ones.
February 5th: Race 1 – Trofeo Palma, 116km
February 6th: Race 2 – Trofeo Migjorn, 171.7km
February 7th: Race 3 – Trofeo Deia, 151km
February 8th: Race 4 – Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, 160.2km
For more details on the race and a full list of participating teams and riders visit the official website.
Who to watch
Again, trying to pick winners when you’re not sure who’s racing in which stage is more than a wee bit tricky. But there are a number of likely suspects. Looking firstly at the sprinters, we have previous stage winners in Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) plus Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky), Rabobank’s Lars Boom and Theo Bos, and Manuel Quinziato (BMC). No sprinter is going to pass up an opportunity to add to his palmares.
On the hillier stages, don’t expect the big guns to show their hands, they’ll be keeping their powder dry for later in the season. Instead, it’ll be riders with a point to prove, ones who’ll be riding in support of their leaders in the bigger stage races and riders on teams still looking for a win. These all look likely candidates: Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun), Amael Moinard (BMC), former stage winner Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan), Martin and Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Alejandro Valverde and Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), Chris Froome (Sky) … I could go on but will likely end up naming pretty much everyone.
Because we can’t be sure who will be racing in which stage, VeloVoices won’t be following any one particular rider during the races.
One thing is for certain: Alberto Contador will race only on Sunday, honouring his commitment to take part, before returning to Madrid to await that verdict and avoid the ensuing media frenzy.
Look out for details of television coverage over on cyclingfans.com.