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Vuelta a Andalucia: Slowly Stepping Up

The next Spanish adventure promises to get us a little closer to real racing.

Getting interested yet? I’m thinking maybe it’s time.

Yes, we have one of our biggest ever kid events coming up Saturday, and that’s even before I add in the Editors’ League Draft, and my increasing alarm over my own cycling condition as the Paris-Roubaix sportive draws closer and closer. So it’s been hard to focus on charming little training events like the Vuelta a Murcia. But with the start of the Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta Ciclista del Sol about to start in an hour, well, it might be time to start watching live racing at 6am.

Here are five things to chew on with respect to this race.

1: It Has a Time Trial

How many time trial stages have we seen so far in 2017? Just two that I know of, at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. It certainly makes for a bit more GC intrigue, and a few interesting crono specialists like Vasil Kiryienka are on hand. This one’s only 11.9km, half of last year’s Ruta ITT stage, but so be it.

2: The Queen Stage is a Beast

No sense burying the lead. Circling around Jaen, the second stage (Thursday) summits early and often, with a true MTF of some 8km to the Pena del Aguila. No stats available but the last few km appear to maybe be in the 10% range?

Vuelta Andalucia stage 2

Three of the four rated climbs are all pretty healthy for this time of year, and maybe the Puerto de Torres is sneaky-tough for all I know.

3: Alejandro Valverde Might Not Win

Well, he also might, as he has in four of the last five years. But even without Chris Froome, Sky are bringing a loaded team, backing Mikel Landa with Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve and Diego Rosa. Lotto start Tim Wellens. Trek have Contador kicking off his new team campaign. Pinot, Uran, and Barguil are here. And Nibali’s Bahrain team might look a bit mighty with the Shark himself as well as Jon Izagirre Insausti. So even if Valverde is doing 70-km solo runs, he might still run into a bit more resistance in Jaen than he did at home last weekend.

4: There Will Be Sprints

Stages 4 and 5 look pretty bunch-friendly, to the delight of the few sprinters in town for the race. Moreno Hofland William Bonnet and Bryan Coquard are the headliners, but there are a lot of young kids and some smaller teams who could produce an intriguing result.

5: Stage 1. Who Knows?

For all the hoopla, it could be stage 1 that turns out to be the most fun. There’s about a 700 meter climb in the final 30km, then a descent off that to a sprint, where all sorts of interesting characters... OK, Valverde has that one in the bag. But from there, nothing is guaranteed!

OK, we can hope for some good racing, and if it’s still a little tame, then so be it. We are just crossing the mid-point of February, and your FSA DS teams aren’t due for another week. Patience is still the main thing.