Vuelta a Burgos preview

The 34th Vuelta a Burgos, which runs from today (Wednesday) until Sunday 5th August, is a five-stage event classified 2.HC on the UCI European Tour, often seen as an appetiser for the subsequent Vuelta a Espana. The race started in 1946 and ran the following year before resuming in the late 1980s when it became a professional event.

What kind of race is it?

While the race has something for everyone it’s typically won by a climber. The race’s decisive queen stage is generally the final one which climaxes on the hors catégorie climb of Lagunas de Neila. Traditionally the event features a hilly parcours and, some years, an individual or team time trial.

Spanish riders have won this race more than any other nation and the most successful rider is the Basque, Marino Lejarreta, with four victories – 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. The race’s golden years were in the 1990s when it attracted all the top riders such as Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong, although neither won the overall title. Its demotion in 2005 below the UCI’s top tier meant it was deserted by sponsors and television. Accordingly, in 2009 responsibility for organising and financing the race was assumed by the local province.

The most recent winners of the event have been:

2007: Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)

2008: Xabier Zandio (Caisse d’Epargne)

2009: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne)

2010: Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)

2011: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

What happened last year?

Last year Katusha’s pint-sized Joaquim Rodriguez won two stages, the points jersey and the overall honours in dominating fashion in preparation for his assault on the leader’s jersey in the Vuelta a Espana.

Vuelta a Burgos 2011 podium l to r Dani Moreno, Joaquim and Pablo Rodriguez, Juan Jose Cobo (image courtesy of official race site)

Vuelta a Burgos 2011 podium (l to r): Dani Moreno, Joaquim and Pablo Rodriguez, Juan Jose Cobo (image courtesy of official race site)

Defending champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) claimed stage one and the leader’s cyclamen jersey atop the Cat 3 Juan del Monte. Katusha set a fierce tempo at the foot of the final climb, and Rodriguez made his move inside the final kilometre only to see it countered by Sanchez.

Rodriguez bounced back with an emphatic victory on the following stage at El Castillo in Burgos. His team again set a fast and furious tempo on the 7km finishing circuit, from which Rodriguez launched his explosive uphill attack to a solo victory with teammate Daniel Moreno runner-up. Sanchez finished third, seven seconds behind the winner, to whom relinquished the leader’s jersey.

Movistar claimed a hard-fought victory in the fast 11.6km team time trial from Pradoluendo to Belorado, beating Katusha by ten seconds. The Spanish squad reached a top speed of 66.6kph to take victory, which it dedicated to Andrea Pinarello, the recently deceased son of the team’s bicycle sponsor. Rodriguez remained in the lead, while Sanchez lost 24 seconds on the day to drop to fifth overall.

Stage four featured yet another uphill finish dominated by Katusha. Rodriguez launched his attack with 500m remaining with teammate Moreno and stage one winner Sanchez on his wheel. With 200m to go, Moreno pounced to take victory in Ciudad Romana de Clunia by just one second.

Mikel Landa (Euskaltel-Euskadi) took his maiden pro victory on the final stage on the tough uphill finish to Areniscas de los Pinares, surging clear of Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC) in the final 300 metres. Cobo hung on for second place, three seconds back, while Rodriguez finished third at 12 seconds, celebrating his overall victory. Sanchez started the stage fourth overall, 21 seconds down on Rodriguez, and went for broke over the penultimate climb. But, perhaps realising he didn’t have what it would take to break Rodriguez, he elected to let Landa attack. Sanchez was dropped while Rodriguez, Moreno, Cobo and Fabrice Jeandesboz (Saur-Sojasun) led the pursuit of the young Basque rider. Landa was caught by Rodriguez and Cobo but put in a late surge to take a well-deserved victory and the King of the Mountains classification. Euskaltel-Euskadi also took the team competition while Kenny De Ketele (Topsport Vlaanderen) took the sprints jersey.

1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +15:12:34

2. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +0:36

3. Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TCM) +0:45

4. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:23

5. Fabrice Jeandesboz (Saur-Sojasun) +1:52

6. David Lopez (Movistar) +1:58

7. Pablo Lastras (Movistar) +2:06

8. Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +2:25

9. Sergio Pardilla (Movistar) +2:34

10. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +2:55

This year’s race

The Vuelta a Burgos covers 775km over five days in the province of Burgos in Spain. The race starts at Miranda de Ebro and finishes, as usual, on the decisive hors catégorie climb of Lagunas de Neila, which has ramps reaching an eye watering 17%. Prior to that there are a further six climbs: three Cat 2s, one Cat 1 and a Cat 3 to tire the legs.

Vuelta a Burgos 2012: Stage 5

Vuelta a Burgos 2012: Stage 5

The first day’s stage is undulating and finishes on the Cat 3 summit at Ojo Guarena. The second day’s stage is effectively three circuits of Burgos finishing atop the Cat 3 climb Alto del Castillo. Day three is also quite lumpy –  Santo Domingo de Silos to  Lerma –  including three Cat 3 climbs, the last of which, the Alto de Majadal, is just 25km from the finish. The fourth stage is 170km along a relatively flat coastal road – one for the sprinters perhaps? However, if it’s windy the GC contenders will need to be to the fore to avoid being distanced.

18 teams are taking part: eight WorldTour teams, eight Professional Continental squads plus two Continental teams –  Orbea, the Euskaltel feeder squad, and local team Burgos-BH.

Who to watch

This event is naturally well-supported by the Spanish teams and defending champion, Rodriguez, and many others who animated last year’s race, will again be taking part. Its proximity to the Vuelta and its hilly parcours have also, this year, attracted riders whose Tour hopes were dashed by falls and illnesses. For example, Rabobank are fielding both Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema. Sky have their young, exciting Columbian duo of Sergio Henao and Olympic silver medallist Rigoberto Uran who’ll no doubt be riding in support of Chris Froome at the Vuelta.

Jonathan Monsalve (image courtesy of Androni Giocattoli Venezuela)

Jonathan Monsalve (image courtesy of Androni Giocattoli Venezuela)

Fabrice Jeandesboz (Saur Sojasun), the only rider last year to break the Spanish stranglehold on the top ten – and who won’t be taking part in the Vuelta – will no doubt be hoping to improve on his fifth position. Argos-Shimano’s want-away Alexandre Geniez will also be looking to shine and hopefully land a new contract. Apart from the Sky duo, there’s plenty of other Colombians and South Americans who’ll be finding the parcours very much to their liking: the entire Colombia Coldeportes team and Acqua & Sapone’s Carlos Betancur.

VeloVoices will be keeping a close eye on one of Androni Giocattoloi’s South Americans, Jonathan Monsalve, a 23-year old Venezuelan who racked up some impressive victories locally before moving over to Europe. He’s likely to be riding in support of team leader Emanuele Sella but might just be let off the leash on one of the hillier stages.

Race details

August 1st: Stage 1 – Miranda de Ebro to Complejo Karstico Ojo Guarene, 135km

August 2nd: Stage 2 – Burgos, 159km

August 3rd: Stage 3 – Santo Domingo de Silos to Lerma, 159km

August 4th: Stage 4 – Dona Santos to Ciudad Romana de Clunia, 170km

August 5th: Stage 5 – Comarca Pinares to Laguna de Neila, 179.5km

The Vuelta a Burgos starts on Wednesday 1st August and concludes on Sunday 5th.  For live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

What’s happening in August?

The races continue to come thick and fast this month, with the Olympic time trials opening the month and the Vuelta a Espana straddling the end of it. Indeed Spain’s Grand Tour starts less than four weeks after the end of the Tour de France.

A packed calendar in August also contains four other WorldTour events and birthdays for two of the peloton’s most experienced veterans, so here are the key dates for your diary.

Olympic time trials (1st)

Where Team GB faltered in the road race in their bid to launch Mark Cavendish to victory in Saturday’s road race, in today’s time trial they have not one but two realistic shots at the gold medal. Bradley Wiggins has been unbeatable over long time trials this season – six wins in six attempts against the clock over 10km or more – while Sky teammate Chris Froome was second-fastest in both long time trials at the Tour de France. Gold plus a second medal are a realistic possibility, but current and former time trial world champions Tony Martin (Germany) and Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) will be looking to inflict double disappointment on expectant Brits. Also look out for the US pair of Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen to shine over the 44km course.

Before the men’s race, however, comes the women’s equivalent, run over the shorter distance of 29km. The partisan Brits among us will be cheering on Emma Pooley, but it’s hard to look beyond Germany’s Judith Arndt as the short-odds favourite, with Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) and Kristin Armstrong (USA) the most likely to displace her on the top of the medal podium.

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Eneco Tour (6th-12th)

This seven-day WorldTour race marks a distinct change from the parcours of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana which sit close either side of it. Run on a combination of largely flat and undulating roads in Belgium and Holland, the race is traditionally a welcome haven for sprinters and time-trial specialists, with punchy all-rounders typically faring well in the general classification. Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen won last year’s race, his second success in three years. This year’s field will be enlivened by the return from suspension of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Alberto Contador, who will be looking to get some racing miles in his legs ahead of a tilt at the Vuelta.

The key stages this year are likely to be a pair of time trials – both team (stage two) and individual (stage six) – with the latter being followed by the concluding queen stage which finishes with circuits of the city of Geraardsbergen including repeated ascents of the Mur de Grammont (also known as the Muur van Geraardsbergen), a 1.1km climb – well known to followers of the Tour of Flanders – which includes sections of close to 20% gradient.

Link: Official website

Clasica San Sebastian (14th)

Very much a climbers’ race suiting bold puncheurs, San Sebastian is a relatively young race – it was first run in 1981 – but has already established a deserved reputation as one of the more visually spectacular races on the cycling calendar, full of coastal views and twisting, rolling roads. It also boasts a winners’ list which reads like a Who’s Who of cycling, including such illustrious names as Miguel Indurain, Lance Armstrong, Laurent Jalabert, Alejandro Valverde and 2011 winner Philippe Gilbert.

Run over a distance of close to 230km, the race is frequently decided by a final selection on the climb of the Alto de Jaizkibel, an 8km climb averaging 5.6% just under 30km from the finish.

Link: Official website

Vuelta a España (18th August-9th September)

The 67th Vuelta a España, the last of the year’s three Grand Tours, kicks off in Pamplona with a team time trial before embarking on a parcours which could only be described as vertiginous. It is one of the toughest Grand Tour routes in recent memory – rivalling even the 2011 Giro d’Italia – and includes just six flat stages and a headache-inducing 13 mountain stages, six of which conclude in summit finishes. Even the 40km individual time trial on stage 11 which neatly cleaves the race into two halves includes a climb of nearly 400 metres.

Needless to say, this is a race tilted heavily in favour of the pure climbers so expect Spanish riders to be out in force, not least a certain Alberto Contador. His most likely challenger may well be Sky’s 2011 runner-up – and, of course, second in the 2012 Tour de France – Chris Froome, if his Tour and Olympic exertions have not sapped his legs too much. The race may well remain alive right up until the penultimate stage which, as in 2010, will conclude on the monstrous 21.6 km, 6.3% ascent of Bola del Mundo near Madrid, a climb which features sections with 19% and 20% gradients in the closing 2km and could provide a spectacular head-to-head showdown for the overall.

Link: Official website

Other key races this month include the Vuelta a Burgos (1st-5th) – read Sheree’s preview here –  a key build-up race for the Vuelta a Espana and one-day races Vattenfall Cyclassics (19th) and GP Ouest France-Plouay (26th). The latter two are both WorldTour events.

Links: Vuelta a Burgos website, Vattenfall Cyclassics website, GP Ouest France-Plouay website

This month’s birthdays

A selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:

4th: David Millar, Garmin-Sharp (35 years old). The Scotsman is now one of the senior statesmen of the peloton, as well as wearing the mantle of anti-doping poster boy. An otherwise quiet year in which his time trial form has been largely mediocre was transformed by his breakaway win on stage 12 of last month’s Tour de France.

O’Grady creeps one year closer to 40 (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

6th: Stuart O’Grady, Orica-GreenEDGE (39). More of a mentor and all-purpose engine than a hard-man sprinter these days, the 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner was a member of GreenEDGE’s winning team time trial squad at Tirreno-Adriatico and was part of the key breakaway at the London Olympic road race, eventually placing sixth.

6th: Jerome Coppel, Saur-Sojasun (26). Viewed as one of the great young hopes of the new generation of French riders, Coppel has so far failed to make a big breakthrough at the Tour de France, finishing 21st this year after a 14th place in 2011. He did, however, win the early season Etoile de Besseges stage race and was an excellent third overall at the Vuelta a Andalucia.

20th: Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp (26). The cousin of AG2R’s Nicolas Roche has had an up-and-down season following his Grand Tour breakthrough at the 2011 Vuelta, where he won a stage and rode aggressively in the mountains en route to 13th overall. Strong form in the spring saw him place fourth overall at the Volta a Catalunya and then fifth and sixth respectively in the Ardennes Classics Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne. But he had a relatively disappointing Tour de France – expected to be a key aggressor in the mountains, he managed no higher than a seventh place as he finished 35th overall.

22nd: Theo Bos, Rabobank (29). The Dutch sprinter has had a relatively quiet 2012, but has continued his streak of winning stages in pairs. Two stage victories at the Tour of Turkey were added to a palmares which includes a sprint double at the 2011 Tour of Oman and a brace at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon the previous year.

Also on the blog

As usual, we’ll be providing comprehensive race coverage all month, with previews and reviews from all the major races. Plus watch out for some additional coverage as we branch out from our traditional core of men’s road racing.

Every Tuesday, Tweets of the Week will bring you all the news that’s fit to print (in 140 characters), with focus shifting from the Olympic rings to our annual romp through the mountains of Spain as the month progresses. Our regular Friday Features will bring you in-depth analysis from the wider world of cycling. We’ll continue to find all the best images from our favourite sport, both here on the blog and via our Facebook page. And, of course, you can always chat with us on Twitter.

Whether serious or light-hearted, VeloVoices is the place to come for all the latest cycling news and views! Pro cycling for fans, by fans.