You’ve had the taster in the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, now comes the real thing in the Emakumeen Bira. Or to be more accurate, now comes the Wendy’s of cycle races: five stages over four days including no less than twelve categorised climbs. It’s as if the organisers couldn’t decide which hills to use, but just nodded nervously when the guy behind the counter asked "with everything?" And if that wasn’t torture enough they also managed to find some cobbles too. Last year Judith Arndt and Nicole Cooke managed to snaffle all the stages between themselves. Here’s a bit of video from then, just to get you started.
Stage 1, Thursday 10th June - Iurreta - Iurreta 84.6km
You’ve heard of the Basque separatist movement, but I bet you’ve never heard of the Iurreta separatist movement until now. But look up Iurreta on any map and your first thought might be "surely that’s just a suburb of Durango?" Oh no no no no no, for as Wiki explains "Incorporated into the municipality of Durango in 1926, Iurreta regained its independent status in 1990." Stage 1 climbs a few more of those hills surrounding Durango, but only one is categorised today. To compensate they go three times over a 400m cobbled stretch. Cicloweb’s profile. The red marks the cobbles while M.V. indicates intermediate sprints. I hope that the leader’s jersey looks as good as this one from another race earlier this season.
Stage 2, Friday 11th June - Lekeitio - Lekeitio 93km
We really get away from Durango for the moment, rather than just crosing the road. Lekeitio is on the Atlantic coast almost due north from Durango, but forget about lying back on a towel. Here towels are for soaking up sweat as the race gets sent once over the 3rd category Mendexa, twice over the 2nd category Lekoitz and three times over the 3rd category Milloi. This website has lots of photos of the area. Note that the blurb includes the phrases "twisty" and "fun to drive". And if you’re still baffled the video above was taken on Goose Day. Cicloweb profile.
Stage 3a, Saturday 12th June - Elorrio - Elgeta 5.9km uphill time trial
Whisper it if need be, but Elorrio is some 10km southeast of, erm, Durango. Familiar ground in other words. The morning’s stage is a short but nasty little beast. Profile. Need I say more.
Stage 3b, Saturday 12th June - Iurreta - Zuia 78.7km
Back to somewhere near Durango for the afternoon’s semi-stage which climbs one 2nd category at Zumeltza and then stays on that high plain all the way to the finish line in Zuia. Profile.
Stage 4, Sunday 13th June - Orduña - Orduña 126km
The last stage is also the longest and the climbiest with three 2nd category hills, almost 2000m of vertical ascent and a steep 10km dash to the finish line. It was on this descent last year in the rain that Judith Arndt caught up and overtook Claudia Hausler and Mara Abbott to get both stage and overall wins. Has she recovered her form this year, or did the winter’s team building exercises at HTC-Columbia include some collective raw chicken licking exercise from which they are all slowly recovering. Profile.
There’s no official start-list yet, so perhaps you should consult this one for the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria and draw up a team list for Pigeon’s game. The top climbers from the Tour de l’Aude are all missing, so look towards the stars of the climby classics, like Vos, Johansson, Cantele, Cooke, Bosman, and Berlato. Or maybe Tiff Cromwell who missed l’Aude. Or any name at random from Cervelo.
Stage 1 finish video