The seventh edition of the Tour de San Luis runs from Monday 21st until Sunday 27th January and it’s gaining in popularity as it provides high altitude, warm weather racing in a convivial atmosphere. Ten ProTeams are present: Omega Pharma-Quick Step along with Movistar, Lampre-Merida, Astana, BMC, AG2R La Mondiale, Orice-GreenEDGE, Lotto-Belisol, Saxo-Tinkoff and Cannondale. There are also the top-ranked European and US ProConti teams along with a sprinkling of local ones.
What kind of race is it?
Riders will cover 1,017.5km over seven stages, one of which is an individual time trial. The race is ranked 2.1 on the UCI America Circuit. The two indicates that it’s a stage race while the one shows it’s a second tier race – top-tier races are HC – to which half the invited teams must be from the WorldTour. In addition, the organisers are obliged to invite the top-ranked Professional Continental and Continental teams on the American circuit. National teams may also take part.
The most recent winners of the event are:
2008: Martin Garrido (Palmeiras Resort-Tavira)
2009: Alfredo Lucero (Argentina national team)
2010: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo)
2011: Marco Arragiada (Chile national team)
2012: Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
What happened last year?
Frankly, it was a bit of a goal-fest for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Levi Leipheimer won the overall, largely as a result of his victory in the time trial and his ability to cling to runner-up Alberto Contador’s (Saxo Bank) coat-tails on the two summit finishes. With two stage wins for Francesco Chicchi and one for Tom Boonen, OPQS scored an impressive four wins from seven. The remaining stage was won by the young Italian sprinter and track star Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). Contador was subsequently stripped of those two victories when he was sanctioned in relation to his 2010 Tour de France clenbuterol positive.
1. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 26:32:55
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) +0:46
3. Daniel Diaz (San Luis Somos Todos) +1:29
4. Stefan Schumacher (Christina Watches-Ofone) +1:34
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:50
6. Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) +2:13
7. Magno Nazaret (Funvic-Pidamonhangab) +2:39
8. Luis Mansilla (Chile) +3:24
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +3:44
10. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +4:46
Our full 2012 race review is here.
This year’s race
The stages follow a not dissimilar format to prior years. Proceedings kick off with a sprint-friendly stage finishing after a long stretch of downhill – just to warm up the legs and get everyone acclimatised to the altitude. The organisers dial it up a notch on day two with another sprint stage, but one which is rather more undulating. Stage three features two category one climbs: the Alto de Nogoli followed by a long descent before the 4.8km climb at an average of 6.7% to the summit finish at Mirador Potrero.
The flattish 19.5km time trial is an out-and-back loop with a number of tricky turns and may well again prove decisive in determining the race winner. Here’s a quick run through of the stage:
Stage five features a finish on yet another category one climb, the 10.2km Cerro d’Amago, which has a few 10%+ ramps and finishes on the plateau above the climb.
Stage six, the queen stage shown above, finishes atop the well-known category one climb the Mirador del Sol. The 7km climb averages 8.75%, though there are a few stretches above 14%. This penultimate stage should pretty much confirm the general classification as the final day is another one for the sprinters, although there is a bit of a ramp up to the finish, making it possibly more suited to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) than Mark Cavendish (OPQS).
Who to watch
Last year’s winning team are bringing French national time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel, who last year rode in support of Leipheimer, and sprinter Mark Cavendish who’ll be keen to record a win in his new jersey and joust with Sagan. Astana are fielding 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali, also sporting new colours and looking to impress.
It would be nice to see one or more of the Colombians who are taking part shine in the high mountains but I suspect they’ll all be tasked with taking care of their respective team leaders.
This early in the season, riders are looking more for stage wins to test their legs than perhaps the overall. So look for riders who typically will be riding in a support role later in the year, and who can also time trial, to waltz off with that magnificent small rider-sized trophy.
Of course the man everyone will be watching is last year’s Vuelta winner Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), who’ll want to continue his winning form into 2013.
January 21st: Stage 1 – San Luis to Villa Mercedes, 165km
January 22nd: Stage 2 – Tilisarao to Terraza del Portezuelo, 187km
January 23rd: Stage 3 – La Punta to Mirador Potrero/La Punta, 180km
January 24th: Stage 4 – San Luis to San Luis, 19.5km individual time trial
January 25th: Stage 5 – Juana Koslay to La Carolina, 185km
January 26th: Stage 6 – Quines to Merlo, 131km
January 27th: Stage 7 – San Luis to San Luis, 160km
The Tour de San Luis starts on Monday 21st January and concludes on Sunday 27th. For live video and audio coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website