Spanish Vuelta unveils route crafted for climbers

MADRID (AP) Spanish Vuelta organizers unveiled on Saturday a route for its 80th edition that is again crafted to favor cycling’s strongest climbers.

The 21-stage grand tour starting on Aug. 22 includes nine summit finishes and goes back to the traditional finale in Madrid, after last year’s race concluded in the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela.

The race will begin with a team time trial starting in the coastal town of Puerto Banus.

Following a first week in the southern part of the peninsula, the race heads north for a demanding series of mountain stages.

”I think it is a Vuelta similar to recent years, very demanding,” said former winner Alejandro Valverde. ”The first part is good for me, with some explosive finishes, but then the more mountainous part comes.”

An 11th stage with six category climbs will take place completely inside Andorra in the Pyrenees mountains.

After summit finishes on the 14th and 15th stages, riders face seven category climbs before reaching a special-category finish at the Ermita del Alba.

Joaquim Rodriguez said the 16th stage ”will go down in history.”

”It is a very hard Vuelta, like in recent years,” said Rodriguez. ”You’ll have to be in good shape from the start to the finish, you won’t have a chance to find your form during the race.”

The only individual time trial, a 39-kilometer (24-mile) ride to and from Burgos, comes in the 17th stage after the second rest day.

Alberto Contador won the Vuelta for a third time last year.