||[Dec. 13th, 2006|06:33 pm]
The spectacular ascent to the Lagos de Covadonga returns to the itinerary for the 2007 Tour of Spain, providing the finale to a showpiece stage in a punishing first week of racing.
The sinuous climb in the northern Spanish region of Asturias will provide a fitting climax to the 182-km fourth stage of the Vuelta.
"It will be great for the fans to see the return of the legendary climb to the Lagos," Alejandro Valverde, who was second to Alexander Vinokourov in 2006, said at the presentation of next year's race.
"The mountain stages start very early, but with the riders still being fresh I think things won't be decided until the last week."
The three-week race, which gets underway in the Galician port of Vigo on September 1, includes three other mountain-top finishes, in Cerler and Ordino-Arcalis in the Pyrenees and the Alto de Abantos close to Madrid.
Zaragoza provides the setting for the first of two individual time trials with a lengthy 49-km test against the clock. Riders then face consecutive mountain finishes at the ski stations of Cerler and Ordino-Arcalis to end to the first week.
The teams will transfer south to the Mediterranean coast at Oropesa where they begin a loop across the sweltering south of the country towards the historic Andalucian city of Granada.
The highlights of the final week will be a mountain stage, finishing in Abantos, followed by a 25-km time trial in Villalba before the traditional finale in Madrid.
Race director Victor Cordero said 2006 had been a tough year for Spanish cycling in the wake of the Operation Puerto doping investigation.
"Cycling needs to modernise itself and to regain its credibility." he said.
"We need to ensure we combine the epic with the ethic. In order to try and do this we have kept the average stage length to 154 kilometres.
"We have tried to light the fuse of the 2007 Vuelta early on in the race and keep it burning right to the end."
Organisers announced that the 2008 Vuelta would start in Granada.
Stage 1, Sept 1: Vigo-Vigo, 145 km
Stage 2, Sept 2: Allariz-Saniago de Compostela, 150 km
Stage 3, Sept 3: Viveiro-Luarca 155 km
Stage 4, Sept 4: Langreo-Lagos de Covadonga, 182 km*
Stage 5, Sept 5: Cangas de Onis-Reinosa, 155 km
Stage 6, Sept 6: Reinosa-Logrono, 195 km
Stage 7, Sept 7: Calahorra-Zaragoza, 140 km
Stage 8, Sept 8: Denominacion de Origen Carinena-Zaragoza (ITT), 49 km
Stage 9, Sept 9: Huesca-Cerler, 174 km
Stage 10, Sept 10: Benasque-Ordino-Arcalis (Andorra), 220 km
Stage 11. Sept 12: Oropesa-Algemesi, 190 km
Stage 12, Sept 13: Algemesi-Hellin, 167 km
Stage 13, Sept 14: Hellin-Torre-Pacheco, 150 km
Stage 14, Sept 15: Puerto Lumbreras-Villacarrillo, 205 km
Stage 15, Sept 16: Villacarrillo-Granada, 205 km
Stage 16, Sept 18: Jaen-Puertollano, 165 km
Stage 17, Sept 19: Ciudad Real-Talavera de la Reina, 180 km
Stage 18, Sept 20: Talavera de la Reina-Avila, 154 km
Stage 19, Sept 21: Avila-Alto de Abantos, 138 km
Stage 20, Sept 22: Villalba-Villalba (ITT) 25 km
Stage 21, Sept 23: Rivas Vaciamadrid-Madrid 100 km