The GP Miguel Indurain is a one-day road race in the Spanish region of Navarra. It started back in 1951 as a Navarran hill-climbing competition limited to local riders. In 1968 it was reborn as the GP Navarra and rebranded again in 1989 as the Trofeo Communidad de Navarra. Finally, in 1998 the race was rechristened Gran Premio Miguel Indurain after the five-time Tour de France winner.
In 2005, with the introduction of the UCI Europe Tour, the race was classified a 1.1 event and then upgraded to a 1.HC event in 2007. These higher grades have attracted an increasingly competitive and international field of racers..
What kind of race is it?
Initially, the race’s organiser, the Estella Cycling Club, was having problems finding sufficient funds to stage the race. Finally, a private sponsor came forward. While the budget remains at €100,000 (€7,515 for the winner) the number of teams taking part has been restricted to 11, albeit each with ten members: seven ProTour teams along with four Spanish ProContinental and Continental teams.
This one-day race, traditionally ridden as a prelude to the more important WorldTour event, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which starts 48 hours later on the following Monday, loops through the Navarran town of Estella-Lizarra and includes several challenging climbs. As a consequence, the race tends to favour a fast all rounder rather than a pure sprinter or climber as can be seen from the list of previous winners, no less than six of whom are taking part in this year’s event, plus regular podium placer Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Hortensia Vidaurreta, Miguel Maria and Juan Fernandez share the record with three wins apiece but in more recent times it’s been won twice by Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Barracuda) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha). The most recent winners of the race are:
2007: Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale)
2008: Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
2009: David De La Fuente (Fuji-Servetto)
2010: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
2011: Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
What happened last year?
Last year Olympic champion Samu Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) recorded his and his team’s first victory of the season in winning the GP Miguel Indurain ahead of Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and former winner Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek).
For Sanchez, who already had three second places to his name in 2011 – two stages in Paris-Nice and one in Vuelta a Andalucia – this difficult win came as something of a welcome relief, as he confirmed:
It was a very difficult day. The team was phenomenal and we worked hard. The race was very fast and there were continuous attacks, in addition to the heat.
The race started in an aggressive fashion with numerous attacks until a group of four managed to get away: Xavier Tondo (Movistar), Jorge Azanza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Peter Stetina (Garmin-Cervelo) and Maciej Paterski (Liquigas). Aranza was dropped after the third sprint point and the remaining trio were pursued with brio by an 11-man break containing Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) as they approached the day’s first climb.
The two groups merged but were reeled back in by the peloton on the approach to the second climb of the day, with 90km remaining. Now a trio of Spaniards made their move – Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Pablo Lastras (Movistar) and David Belda (Burgos 2016) – gapping the peloton by several minutes. Lastras was the first to fall off the back of the trio with 20km of racing left and the remaining two were caught at the base of the penultimate climb.
A number of riders tried to make good their escape with the last of them, Vasili Kiryienka (Movistar), being caught in the final kilometre. His attack had been countered by Wegmann and Kolobnev but Sammy soared past both of them in the final few hundred metres in an aggressive solo attack up to the Basilica del Puy in Estella.
Afterwards, Sanchez confirmed that it had been a hard-fought victory:
The team did a sensational job – it was a huge task. There were breaks where we were not represented and we had to take control. The finale was tense and complicated – Wegmann has won a couple of times and Kolobnev is a great racer with many wins. The victory was very difficult, but we did it and I am very happy.
Stetina won the hot sprints, Belda the mountains and Lastras the intermediate sprints prizes. Gorka Verduga (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was best Basque and Movistar won best team. No mention of who won ‘Most Elegant’ rider but it’s most often awarded to the race winner.
Here is that final attack:
1. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 4:42:47
2. Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) +0:02
3. Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek) +0:07
4. Ryder Hesjdal (Garmin-Cervelo) same time
5. Angel Madrazo (Movistar) s/t
6. Robinson Eduardo Chalapud (Colombia Es Passion-Cafe De Colombia) s/t
7. Javier Moreno (Caja Rural) s/t
8. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin Cervelo) s/t
9. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:13
10 Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:16
This year’s race
This year’s race follows a similar parcours to previous years. A 179.3km route which comprises three loops around Estella – two large and one small – finishing back on Estella’s Basilica del Puy.
The progressively testing parcours offers plenty of opportunity for riders to launch attacks and to scoop up prize money en route with the various intermediate and hot sprints. The first third is rolling, then there’s two cat. 2 climbs followed by the cat. 1 Alto Guiguillano. Thereafter, there are another two cat. 2 climbs followed by the final cat. 3 climb to Basilica de Puy. As you can see from the picture below it’s pretty much up and down all day, particularly in the latter part of the race.
Who to watch
The defending champion Samu Sanchez will be ably supported by a stellar cast from Euskaltel-Euskadi including Igor Anton and Mikel Astarloza, plus Gorka Izagirre who’ll probably be sent up the road in a breakaway. But, should Sammy falter, there’s plenty of other leading men from the remaining ProTeams looking to scoop the prize such as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez and Denis Menchov (Katusha), Fabian Wegmann and Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Barracuda), Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) and Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale).
If we look to the remaining teams, there’s former winner David De La Fuente (Caja Rural) and Adrian Palomares (Andalucia) plus the two continental squads, Orbea Continental – stuffed full of riders with names that would make any non-Basque commentator tremble and gain you maximum points at Scrabble – and Burgos BH-Castille y Leon, whose riders will be hoping the catch the eye of a directeur sportif from a bigger team and/or grab valuable airtime for their sponsor.
Obviously, the crowd and I will be hoping for a Basque winner, preferably one wearing a flashy gold and orange kit!
GP Miguel Indurain takes place on Saturday 31st March. For TV coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website