“Age and treachery
will overcome youth and skill.”
Fausto Coppi, Italian
"Champion of Champions"

  _September 2005



Vuelta a Espana 05 (Click to enlarge)


Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step) ready to attack


A familiar sight to Vuelta fans, the walled city of Avila.


Stage 19 starts in San Martin de Valdeiglesias near the Castillo de la Coracera





Vuelta Travelogue - Quintessential Spain

La Vuelta a Espana: A Grand Tour [Part 6]

Sting in the tail

While the mountains are not finished there is perhaps a false sense of relief as the Vuelta now turns south and heads for Madrid. However the riders first get a well earned rest day in León , the capital of the Castilla y León region. Once more history dominates our senses. The city was founded by the Romans before Visigoths, the Moors and finally the Christians took control. Being located on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, one of the city's many famous monuments is the pilgrims' hospital of San Marcos, which now functions as a parador (state owned hotel/museum).

Fully rested, the peloton takes the almost dead flat road from León to Valladolid on Stage 16. Once the main city of emergent Spain, it has been the birthplace of kings and queens. In 1506 Christopher Columbus died here poor, bedridden and disillusioned. For the peloton the wind will again be a serious issue with only the strongest making it to the front.

Another transfer takes the race to the mountain range north of Madrid. Now come two stages that have a “real sting in the tail.” Stage 17 starts in El Espinar and takes in two Cat 1 climbs as well as one Cat 2 and one Cat 3 climb. The next day Stage 18 starts and finishes in Avila and will be the last real chance for the climbers with one Cat 1 climb, three Cat 2 climbs and one Cat 3. Most cycling fans will immediately recognize Avila and its famous city walls from Graham Watson's photography. Avila itself can be traced back to Celtic times and a settlement dated at 700 B.C. Romans built the first wall at Avila in the third century B.C. The remaining structure is one of the best-kept medieval walled enclosures in Europe. Almost 2,500 crenellations, a hundred towers, six gates and three openings mark its 2.5-kilometer perimeter. Built between 1088 and 1091, the walls and the city within provide a key to understanding Spain and the stern military might and intense religious struggles that pervaded Europe during the Middle Ages. While these two stages will be very difficult, they may not incorporate climbs with enough altitude for specialists like Roberto Heras. However the terrain certainly offers opportunity for stage-winning breakaways.

With just one Cat 2 and one Cat 3 climb, Stage 19 from San Martin de Valdeiglesias to Alcobendas will provide one last chance for a serious break to get away. The scenery along the way is spectacular with great pine forests and huge granite outcrops. Much of the region is protected with restricted entry as it is the natural habitat to black storks, rare owls, eagles and vultures. In permitted areas, hunting and fishing dominate as pastimes, while cycle racing has also long been an important sport centered out of the stage finish town of Alcobendas.


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