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The race has several big names on the start list and one of the greatest stars is certainly Nairo Quintana. The Tour de San Luis doesn't figure high on his list of priorities but he has a history of starting his seasons strongly.

Photo: Sirotti

TOUR DE SAN LUIS

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
19.01.2014 @ 20:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A long off-season is finally over! On Monday, some of cycling's biggest stars kick off their season in the first major race of the year when they take off on the first stage of the Tour de San Luis. Held under the Argentinean sun far from the European cold and on a mountainous course, the young event has developed into the preferred training ground for some of cycling's greatest stage racers and while they are still far from their best condition, the race gives the first chance to gauge who's going to be firing on all cylinders when the season kicks off in earnest in cycling's European mainland.

 

2014 has barely begun but the times when January is a month for training and preparation at team training camps are long gone. Nowadays, the best professional cyclists start racing earlier than they did in the past when they use the globalization to get some early-season racing kilometres under their belt under distant and warmer skies.

 

This development has prompted the creation of the new opening week of the professional cycling season which takes place more than a month before the traditional Belgian opening weekend and a month and a half before the first major European race, the Paris-Nice. Although the Tour Down Under and the Tour de San Luis are held on separate continents, they have combined forces to kick off the racing season by splitting the professional peloton into two halves, with most of the sprinters and classics specialists heading to Australia and the stage racers travelling to Argentina.

 

Following on the heels of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon and the national championships in New Zealand and Australia, the two races signal the real kick off of the season for most of the WorldTour teams. It is a testament to the globalized cycling that the major stars now travel all over the world to Africa, Oceania and South America to start their season in sunny conditions.

 

On paper, the Tour Down Under may be the major event of the week as the it has rapidly secured itself its place on the coveted WorldTour calendar. As a 2.1 race, the Tour de San Luis may not have the same number of points on offer but when it comes to attracting the biggest names in cycling, the race doesn't leave much to be desired.

 

In just 7 years of existence, the race has grown from being a major summer event for the best South American riders to become one of the preferred training grounds and season openers for some of cycling's greatest stars. It was an indication of the race's lofty ambitions when already in their first year in 2007 the organizers were able to attract a team from the top level, with Saunier Duval lining up riders like Gilberto Simoni and Riccardo Ricco. One year later, the Spanish team had been joined by Team CSC who brought the Schleck brothers to Argentina but despite the presence of the big names, the racing remained mostly an Argentinean affair.

 

That started slightly to change for the 2009 edition when the race was granted 2.1 status by the UCI and had riders like Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali on the start line. Its real international breakthrough had to wait for another year though, with Nibali becoming the first non-Argentinean winner and the podium to be made up entirely of foreign riders.

 

From there, the race has grown from success to success, with more and more top teams being attracted by the sunny conditions, the good organization and the attractive course. This year, no less than 12 of the 18 ProTeams will be present at the start, with 5 pro continental, 4 continental, and 3 national teams making up the rest of the star-studded field.

 

The race finds itself being involved in a battle with the Tour Down Under when it comes to attracting the biggest names but the races seem to appeal to different types of riders. While the Australian race has traditionally been known as one for the sprinters and now suits a mix of fast finishers and puncheurs, the Tour de San Luis is a more traditional stage race which suits the real specialists. With a mostly flat time trial and three summit finishes, the race offers the perfect early-season testing ground for the grand tour contenders and this is reflected in the start list which contains some of the best stage racers in the world. This year the race offers its most star-studded line-up ever, with riders like Nibali, Nairo Quintana, Carlos Betancur, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert, Darwin Atapuma, Moreno Moser, Damiano Caruso, Janier Acevedo, Tom Danielson, Damiano Cunego, Jose Serpa, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Jelle Vanendert, Benat Intxausti, Joaquim Rodriguez, Daniel Moreno, Haimar Zubeldia, Julian Arredondo, Gianluca Brambilla, Ivan Santaromita,  Pieter Weening, Miguel Angel Rubiano and Fabio Duarte being some of the climbers that have chosen to start their season in Argentina.

 

With plenty of WorldTour points on offer in Australia, most of the sprinters and classics specialists prefer to head to Australia but in recent years more and more fast finishers have preferred the South American race. Due to its lower status, the race carries less prestige and attracts less press coverage and so offers a more gentle and calm introduction after a long off-season. The weather conditions are just as perfect in Argentina as they are in Australia, and the race offers the riders the chance to work on their form by doing a bit more climbing. This year Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Tom Boonen, Alessandro Petacchi, Sacha Modolo, Thor Hushovd, Taylor Phinney and Tyler Farrar have all decided to spend a week in Argentina to avoid the pressure and battle for points in Australia.

 

Despite the star-studded line, the race takes place early in the season. Nobody can expect the best riders in the world to be in top condition in the middle of January and this is reflected in the results. With 2010 being the only exception, all editions have seen lesser known Argentinean riders finish on the podium and the race will not be the scene for a big showdown between the best riders in the world. For the stars, the race is mostly a preparation race but for the local riders, it is their season highlight, and this year we can again expect to see the continental riders mix it up at the top of the standings and some major names lose several minutes in the mountains.

 

This was the case last year when Daniel Diaz beat riders like Alberto Contador, Nibali, Rodriguez, Tejay van Garderen, Michal Kwiatkowski and Jurgen Van Den Broeck to become the first Argentinean winner of the race since 2009. Despite not winning a stage, Diaz emerged as the most consistent climber in the race and after leaving all the stars behind him on the fifth stage, he took over the leader's jersey from Kwiatkowski and held it all the way to the finish. Van Garderen was the best of the rest in 2nd while another continental rider, Alex Diniz, added a podium finish to his mountain stage win. The race gave the first indications that Contador would not be back to his former level after his suspension and was the scene of his only win of 2013. This year Diaz will be back to defend his title but van Garderen has chosen a different preparation this time around while Diniz' Funvic team has not been invited to the race.

 

The course

After some initial experiments that included an opening prologue, the Tour de San Luis has found a rather fixed format that has been unchanged for the past several years. There will be no surprises in 2014 either as the organizers have decided to follow the traditional recipe for success. This means that the race will look very much like a mini grand tour that offers a bit of everything during its 7 days of racing, with three summit finishes, three flat stages for the sprinters and a flat time trial. With the race against the clock and the mountain stages set to decide the overall, the winner will be a true stage racer that masters all disciplines.

 

Stage 1

The race will kick off with the exact same stage it did last year, the 164km trek from San Luis to Villa Mercedes. The opening road stage has been between those two cities in every edition of the race so far, with the 2011 being the only exception. The start is slightly undulating with the first 25km all ascending and the riders will tackle the only categorized climb of the day, the category 3 Alto Saladillo, after 55km of racing. From there, it is slightly downhill all the way to the finish in Villa Mercedes where the sprinters are expected to battle it out for the first time in a true bunch sprint. The final 2,2km are all slightly downhill, with the last sharp right-hand turn coming 1,4km from the finish.

 

It is, however, a good idea not to take anything for granted as the roads are rather exposed on the windy plains in Argentina. In 2012, the peloton split to pieces and only 32 riders arrived at the finish in the first peloton when Francesco Chicchi won the sprint. Last year Mark Cavendish won a less eventful stage and the Manxman will love to start his season on a winning note by repeating that result.

 

 

Stage 2

Last year the riders had to wait until the third day before hitting the mountains but there will be no gentle introduction to this year's edition of the Argentinean race. Already on the second stage, the first summit finish will give the first indications of who's going to win the race. The stage finishes on one of the classical climbs in the race's short history, the Mirador del Potrero, which made its first appearance in 2010 and has been on the route both in 2012 and 2013 after a one-year absence.

 

Like last year, the stage will start in La Punta very close to the famed climb and the riders will zig-zag their way through the area north of San Luis. Unlike last year, there will be no major climb before the final ascent, with only the category 3 Alto La Florida at the 68,4km breaking the monotony of the mostly flat terrain. On just their second day of racing, the riders will receive a shock to their system when they hit the final category 1 climb at the end of the 170,6km stage. At just 4,8km, the climb is a short one but with an average gradient of 6,7%, it has the potential to do some damage. The climb mostly has a gradient of 8-9%, with maximum pitches of 10,2% and two easier sections along the way. The final kilometre has an average gradient of 7,5% and the roads are turning and twisting, with the finishing straight bending slightly to the right.

 

Rafael Valls Ferri got his professional career of to a great start when he won the first stage to the top of the climb while Alberto Contador beat Levi Leipheimer two years later to take a win from which he has later been stripped due to his positive Clenbuterol test at the 2010 Tour de France. Last year Alex Diniz laid the foundations for his overall 3rd place when he distanced all the major stars by almost 30 seconds and took over the leader's jersey for a single day before losing it again in the time trial.

 

 

Stage 3

The sprinters will be back in the spotlight on the third day when the riders travel 175,8km from Tilisarao northwest of San Luis to Juana Koslay on the outskirts of San Luis. The terrain is again mostly flat, with only the category 3 Alto Paso Grande and a number of uncategorized rolling hills testing the riders along the way. The final 10km are, however, a bit more difficult as they are all slightly uphill. The final three kilometres have an average gradient of 4,1% and the road is steeper when the riders pass through a roundabout to  hit the finishing straight 1km from the finish. It is not expected to challenge the sprinters too much though.

 

A stage has finished in Juana Koslay only once, in 2012 when Francesco Chicchi beat Tom Boonen in the bunch sprint. On that occasion, the stage also ended with the slightly uphill section near the finish and Chicchi prevailing proves that there is no reason to fear the easy gradients. The major challenge could again be the wind which can blow the race to pieces if the conditions are right.

 

 

Stage 4

The 2014 edition of the race is mostly true to tradition but the race contains a novelty at the halfway mark. The fourth day of racing will again require the climbers to come to the fore as the riders head 168,7km from Potrero de Los Funes just north of San Luis to Cerro Amago much farther north. The stage is very flat for most of the time as the riders head back to San Luis before turning around to travel in a northern direction. The first 144,7km have no categorized climbs but the wind could again play a role on the plains in this part of the country.

 

The riders will hopefully enjoy their flat run as the final 24km are anything but flat. First they head up the category 3 El Emblaise climb which is a long, non-steep affair. A small flat section will give the riders a short breather before taking on the category 1 Alto del Amago for the first time in the race's history. The 10,5km ascent has an average gradient of 7,2% but is very irregular with a number of almost flat sections and a few kilometres with a gradient above the 10% mark. The steepest section comes 5km from the finish where the road kicks up with 11,5% for a kilometre and the final 1000m have a gradient of 10,7%. The top is located 1,8km from the finish and from there it is slightly downhill to the line in Cerro Amago. The final few kilometres follow an almost completely straight road. With a finish 1710m above sea level, the stage will offer the first real mountaintop finish in the 2014 season and by the end of the day, we will know a lot more about who's going to win the Tour de San Luis.

 

 

Stage 5

The climbers may have had the chance to excel twice but to win the race, you need to be a complete athlete. This will become evident on the stage 5 time trial, with the race against the clock coming later in the race than it has done in the past where it has always been held on either the third or fourth day. Since 2008, the time trial has been more or less identical, with only a slight change of the start and finish location reducing the distance from 19,8km to 19,5km and later to 19,2km. The stage will start and finish at the same place in San Luis as the riders follow a T-shaped course that includes 2 U-turns. The route will be completely identical to last year's, with the riders heading along flat roads for the entire stage. The first half is slightly ascending and the second slightly descending but the gradients are almost unnoticeable on a course that suits the true specialists.

 

This was reflected in last year's results when Svein Tuft beat local hero Leandro Messineo and new leader Michal Kwiatkowski to take his first win of the season. Past winners include Levi Leipheimer, the later Xavier Tondo, Vincenzo Nibali and local riders Jorge Giacinti and Martin Garrido and the stage will again play a crucial role in the final outcome in the race.

 

 

Stage 6

The climbers will get one final chance to make up for the time losses they are likely to have suffered in the time trial when on the penultimate day they take on the longest stage. At 184,4km, the riders travel from Las Chacras to the top of the category 1 climb Mirador del Sol whose presence in the last four editions of the race has turned it into the race's signature climb.

 

 As it is the case in all mountain stages of this year's race, the majority of the route is flat, with only a few rolling non-categorized climbs challenging the riders on the long run from Las Chacras to Merlo. From there, all hell breaks loose. First up is a small category 3 climb that leads directly to the bottom of the brutal final ascent. At 7km, it is not overly long and the average gradient of 8,75% doesn't look too fearsome. The numbers are, however, deceptive as the first four kilometres are rather easy, with the gradient hovering around 5-6% for most of the time. The final part is significantly harder, with two-digit gradients testing the riders on a very uneven ascent. The third last kilometre has an average gradient of 15,5%, with the next one being slightly easier ar 14,5%. The road levels out after the passage of the flamme rouge where the gradient is only 5,5%.

 

The climb was the scene of Alberto Contador's only win in 2013 when he went head-to-head with eventual winner Daniel Diaz and Alex Diniz on the steep slopes. The South American pair only lost two seconds to the grand tour star, sealing their overall podium places while Contador repeated his 2012 win on the climb (from which he has later been stripped, with the victory being given to Diaz). Luis Angel Mate and local rider Leandro Messineo were the first two winners on the climb that offers a worthy decision in the GC battle of the 2014 Tour de San Luis.

 

 

Stage 7

The sprinters will have an incentive to stay in the race despite the many mountain stages as the final day offers them a chance to be back in the spotlight. The short 148,1km route goes from San Luis to Terrazas del Portezuelo on its eastern outskirts but most of the stage consists of two laps on a 49km circuit. The first 9,5km take the riders from the start in the city to the start of the first lap and are all slightly uphill. The circuit itself is rolling, with two main climbs and the first part being mainly ascending and the final half mainly descending. On the first lap, there will be a category 3 mountain sprint on the first of the climbs while there will be an intermediate sprint on the top of the second one on both laps. The riders will start a third lap on the circuit but will not do it in full as they will instead head back towards the city after the turning point. The final 27km are mostly downhill but the sprinters will have a slightly unpleasant surprise at the end as the sprint is uphill. The final 2,6km have an average gradient of 2,2% but the final 600m are steeper at 6%. The final kilometres are rather technical with a number of roundabouts and turns. The riders will go left in a roundabout 1,3km from the finish and will face two sweeping left-hand bends and a roundabout inside the final 1000m, the last bend just 200m from the finish.

 

While the uphill finish will make for a different kind of sprint, the gradients are not steep enough to challenge the sprinters who will still come to the fore. Last year the finish was used for the  first time when Sacha Modolo beat Mark Cavendish on the second stage to deny the Manxman his second consecutive win and take over the leader's jersey on the eve of the mountain stages.

 

 

The weather

Most of the riders have travelled to Argentina to find some good weather and for most of the time, they won't be disappointed. On Monday, the race will kick off in sunny conditions, with temperatures reaching more than 35 degrees Celsius. There will be a moderate wind blowing from a northern direction which means that the riders will only face the feared crosswind in the first part of the stage while they will have a nice tailwind for the second half.

 

Rain will fall during the night between Monday and Tuesday but when the riders take to the start line for the second stage, they should again enjoy sunny conditions. At only 30 degrees, it will be slightly cooler but it will still be a very hot day in the saddle. A moderate wind from a western direction will mean plenty of crosswind sections and a headwind on the final climb.

 

The heat will be back for Wednesday's third stage where the riders can again expect temperatures around 35 degrees. Again there will be a moderate wind from a western direction which mean that the riders will generally have a tailwind.

 

The conditions will change significantly for Thursday's stage where the temperatures are expected to drop to just 20 degrees on a mostly cloudy day that could even offer some rain. It is expected to be a windy day and the riders will have a crosswind for almost the entire stage. This could make the long flat stretch to the final climb rather eventful.

 

The sun will be back for the final three stages, with the temperatures gradually increasing from 20 degrees on Friday to around 30 degrees on Sunday. Saturday is expected to be a calm day but Friday and Sunday could both offer some wind. This will make the time trial much harder and the riders will face plenty of crosswind on the final day that is expected to suit the sprinters.

 

The favourites

Outcomes of early-season races are the hardest to predict. As none of the best riders in the Tour de San Luis have any races in their legs yet, no one - not even the riders themselves - know how everyone is going. Furthermore, none of the WorldTour stars are gunning for the win in the Argentinean race which mainly serves as preparation for later objectives but they will be up against local riders for whom the race is the major highlight and who are in the middle of the most important part of their season. This makes the race extremely unpredictable and it is no wonder that the race has often had a surprise winner, with Daniel Diaz' 2013 victory being the most recent example.

 

The Tour de San Luis is even more of a preparation race than the Tour Down Under whose status as a WorldTour race has made several riders write it down as a real target early in the year. That's not the case for the San Luis race which is only a genuine objective for the local riders. This leaves observers with very few tools to point out the favourites and one has to rely on select statements from the riders, their history in the early seasons and the nature of the course when it comes to selecting the winner candidates.

 

The race has several big names on the start list and one of the greatest stars is certainly Nairo Quintana. The Tour de San Luis doesn't figure high on his list of priorities but he has a history of starting his seasons strongly. Compared to the Europeans, he has had much better conditions for training as he has been staying in his native Colombia while most of his rivals have battled the European cold. If one adds that element of preparation to his consistency and general high level, it will be a surprise not to see Quintana figure near the top of the leader board at the end of the week.

 

Whether it will actually be enough to win the race remains to be seen. Quintana is certainly nowhere near his best condition but most of his rivals find themselves in a similar situation. At his best, Quintana is the strongest climber in the race and he will relish the many summit finishes. He is backed by a very strong team that includes strong climbers like Benat Intxausti and Andrey Amador. He will certainly lose time to the specialists in the flat time trial but most of the GC contenders are not much better in the race against the clock. Quintana will try to limit his losses in the fifth stage and use the summit finishes to test his condition. It will be no surprise if that is enough to kick start his season in the best possible way.

 

While most riders are in San Luis to prepare for major WorldTour races, the Argentinean event is the highlight on Daniel Diaz' calendar. The 24-year-old defending champion is a big talent who has a formidable track record in the race. After finishing 34th in his first participation, he made it onto the podium in 2012 before winning the event 12 months later.

 

Diaz has prepared meticulously for his title defence, with several South American races allowing him to accumulate racing kilometres before a high-altitude training camp. In a recent interview with Ciclismo Internactional, he claimed to be feeling even better than he did one year ago and as a young rider, he will have matured even more. There is no doubt that he will be better prepared than any of his rivals and this counts for a lot at this time of the year. As a pure climber, he will lose time in the flat time trial but last year he only lost 1.07 to Michal Kwiatkowski who was the best GC rider in the race against the clock. He has improved in the discipline since then and doesn't face too strong time trialists in the field of GC contenders. With bonus seconds and three summit finishes on offer, he has plenty of opportunities to take back any lost time and he could very well find himself on the top step of the podium for the second year in a row.

 

On paper, one could be tempted to rule out Jurgen Van Den Broeck as a potential winner of the race. After all, the Belgian crashed out of last year's Tour de France and a severe knee injury prevented him from doing any further racing in 2013. However, the former top 5 finisher in the Tour de France has now recovered from his health issues and in November he produced better numbers than he did at the same time prior to the 2010 season when he went on to finish 4th in the Tour de France.

 

Van Den Broeck has a history of starting his seasons strongly and one year ago, he finished 5th in the Argentinean race. He has finished in the top 5 in his first stage race of the season four years in a row. He may of course pay for his long absence from competition but at this time of the year, motivation is the most important factor. Van Den Broeck will have been more eager to get back into training than most of his rivals and this will give him the upper hand in San Luis. Time trialing used to be a strong point when he was a junior rider but in his time as a grand tour contender, it has been quite the opposite. However, he has improved massively in the last two years and last year he performed really well even in flat time trials. He should be able to gain time on riders like Quintana and Diaz and if he is well-prepared, he can defend his advantage in the mountains. After a disappointing 2013 season, Van Den Broeck could prove that he is back to his best right from the beginning.

 

The rider with the strongest track record in the Tour de San Luis is Jose Serpa. The Lampre-Merida rider was 4th when he first lined up in the event in 2008 and has since finished 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 6th in the Argentinean race. Last year he missed the race due to injury but this year he is back to lead a strong Lampre team that also includes the likes of Damiano Cunego and Winner Anacona for mountain support and Maximilian Richeze, Sacha Modolo and Filippo Pozzato for the flat stages.

 

It is no coincidence that Serpa has performed so well in Argentina in the past. The Colombian was once Androni's rider for the early-season races and he always started his seasons very strongly after having enjoyed a good preparation in his home country. This is likely to again be the case in 2014 as he will try to make amends for a disappointing first year with Lampre. He showed glimpses of his best form, like when he finished 15th on the Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France, and if he can rediscover those climbing legs, he will be a threat in the Argentinean mountains. The flat time trial doesn't suit him too well but with a background on the track, he should be able to limit his losses. Don't be surprised if this year will finally allow Serpa to take what appears to be a long overdue win in San Luis.

 

Ag2r-La Mondiale have a line-up that is very close to their A team but it would be unusual for riders like Carlos Betancur and Domenico Pozzovivo to be close to their best at this early time in the season. However, veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud has a history of starting his seasons with all guns blazing and has finished second in the Tour Mediteraneen twice. Despite being 36 years old, the veteran had his best ever season in 2013 when he climbed better than ever and finished in the top 10 in several WorldTour races. He crashed out of the Tour de France at a time when everything suggested that he would make it into the 10 best riders in the race and will be eager to continue his strong showings in 2014. If Peraud has again hit some good form for the early part of the season, he will be a danger man on a course that suits him well. Compared to most of the GC contenders, he is a superior time trialist and even though he would have preferred a more undulating course, he should be able to gain a lot of time in the race against the clock. If he can defend that advantage in the mountains, he could get his season off to a perfect start.

 

The strongest team in the race is doubtlessly Astana. Most eyes will of course be on Vincenzo Nibali who embarks on a season that should culminate with a Tour de France win. Nibali has won the Tour de San Luis once but in recent years he has had slower starts to his seasons. In 2012 he was 5th in Argentina and last year he could only manage 10th. It is unlikely that the Giro champion is already strong enough to contend for the win and instead Astana could play another of their several strong cards.

 

The designated captain could be Michele Scarponi who is famously known for his ability to start his seasons strongly. He did so last year when he was kept out of competition by his Lampre team for most of the early part of the year but performed at a high level as soon as he lined up in his first race. In 2014 Scarponi will be the leader in the Giro and support Nibali in the Tour but he is likely to perform at his consistently high level in a lot of races. He will be eager to show his worth for Astana right from the beginning and could do so in Argentina. Clearly, he is one of the strongest climbers in the race and he improved a lot in the time trials in 2013. If he can put those two elements together, he could be the man for Astana in South America.

 

Last year Julian Arredondo impressed the cycling world when he beat the world elite on the steep Genting Highlands to win the Tour de Langkawi. His strong results in Asian races earned him a WorldTour contract with the Trek team and he will start his season right from the beginning in San Luis. Being an excellent climber, he will find plenty of his terrain in Argentina and he will have had optimal conditions for preparation in Colombia. He may not yet be in his best condition but compared to some of the Europeans, his condition should be more advanced. He will be eager to show his new employer that he deserves his contract and the Tour de San Luis could be the place to do so.

 

Another Colombian who finds himself in new surroundings, is Darwin Atapuma who has left his native Colombia team to join BMC. While he may find himself in a domestique role for most of the season, he may get his own chance in San Luis where he will share the captaincy role with Dominik Nerz, Peter Stetina and Lawrence Warbasse. With wins on the Passo Pordoi in the 2012 Giro del Trentino and on the tough climbing stage to Bukowina Tatrzanska in the 2013 Tour de Pologne, he has proved his excellent climbing skills. He may not be strong enough to beat the best when everybody is at their best but at this early time of the season, he could take his chance. The time trial in San Luis offers a severe disadvantage but in a field that is not loaded with strong time trialists, he could still find himself near the top.

 

It may be a bit too early for Vincenzo Nibali to shine but it would be stupid to completely rule out a win for the Giro champion. With 1st, 5th and 10th places in the past, he has proved that he can start his season rather strongly. It is unlikely that he will emerge as the strongest climber in the race at this early time of the year but he is a much more versatile rider than most of the GC riders. Last year he improved significantly in the time trials and gave the first indications of this trend in San Luis. Again he is likely to use the race against the clock as a solid test of his condition and if he gains a bit of time on the pure climbers, he could win the race.

 

Finally, the Colombia team deserves a mention. The squad has a truly versatile line-up with sprinters like Edwin Avila and Leonardo Duque and climbers like Miguel Angel Rubiano and Fabio Duarte. While the latter is the team's biggest star, the team has made it clear that the former is their rider for the GC in San Luis. In 2011, he was 5th in the race, in 2012 he was 17th and last year he again made it into the top 10 by finishing 7th. He is not a pure climber like some of his GC rivals and will lose a bit of time in the time trial but he has historically started his season rather strongly and is a punchy rider with a fast sprint. It would be a surprise if he ends up winning the race but don't be stunned if he mixes it up with the best in the GC.

 

***** Nairo Quintana

**** Daniel Diaz, Jurgen Van Den Broeck

*** Jose Serpa, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Michele Scarponi

** Julian Arredondo, Darwin Atapuma, Vincenzo Nibali, Miguel Angel Rubiano

* Moreno Moser, Tanel Kangert, Domenico Pozzovivo, Fabio Duarte, Janier Acevedo

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