In January, when the 2011 La Vuelta a Espaсa was presented in Alicante; two things came to mind when the start was announced to be in Benidorm in August. First: Benidorm in August is full of tourists and the traffic is bad enough without a Grand Tour closing many main roads for a team time trial on a Saturday evening, especially along both beaches! Secondly: As the start is only 15 kilometres from my house and stage 2 is within walking distance; how can I inflate my PEZ expenses claim this year?
As the Vuelta director; Javier Guillйn said when asked about the change in the start date: “The race is one week earlier this year compared to last year. It’ll still be holiday time in Spain. Therefore, we hope to attract more people on the roadsides and in front of the TV. Schools are closed. We want to give the youth the opportunity to contribute to the success of the Vuelta.”
Levante & Poniente Beaches, sand, sand, sand…
So the dust was blown off my bike for a little ride down to the beach resort of Benidorm for a preview of the up and coming team time trial of the 2011 Vuelta a Espaсa, not a bad assignment!
Isla de Benidorm
The course is not flat as it does rise to 138 metres altitude in the first 3.7 kilometres, as for myself the good news it starts near one of my favourite cafйs right on the beach front. The Yago cafй is where I interviewed two young guns before they became famous! Adam Blythe and Dan McLay were both on their way to ride for the Omega Pharma-Lotto feeder team and were on training camps in Benidorm. The cakes are very nice, but no time today!
Benidorm’s Twin Towers
From the start, the course climbs up towards the theme park of Terra Mitica, first passing the new apartment block, which is said to be the highest in Europe, and then the Razуn Glorieta (or Roundabout), then the Agua Glorieta, not too tough but you would need to be well warmed up on the trainer before the start or this, or it could be the end of your Vuelta! Then there is a 180є turn at the Glorieta de la Tierra to retrace back down to the beach to follow the new Poniente beach front with its wave effect walk way. When I was there the week before the race, the town hall were making the speed humps a little less severe.
Glorieta de la Razуn
Glorieta de la Tierra
The course to this point is for the power rider, but it then enters the Benidorm “Old Town” area with its narrow streets and twisty corners. The technically more aware rider will have the advantage at this point. The race worms its way through the old town to the resort’s other beach of Levante and the more touristy section with its bars and tacky souvenir shops. This area is more for the English section of the tourist trade – if they can get away from their all inclusive hotels that is!
The Wavy Beach Front
A Quiet Day on Poniente Beach
The beach here is more crowded and noisy with the bars right next to the sand. There are all the usual outlets of Burger King and McDonalds, but also some night clubs and music and motorbike bars…not sure what their usual clientele will make of the team time trial?
The Technical “Old Town” Section
Along by the Levante beach it will be back to the power riders keep the speed up along the sun-soaked sand to its end at the Rincon de L’oix where the teams will make a big turn to head back parallel to the beach to ride the last straight, fast 2 kilometre section to the finish along the tree lined Avenida Mediterrбneo.
The Last K
It’s a course for the fast and powerful riders, and I feel sorry for any rider who isn’t feeling too good at the start, as he will be eating his aero bars up that drag and won’t get much chance to recover over the rest of the circuit. HTC, Garmin-Cervelo and Sky will be amongst the favourites, as usual, for the first leader’s jersey. (I think it’s red this year?)
The Last Bend
I hope this has whetted your appetite for La Vuelta a Espaсa. The team time trial has always been a great opening for the race as last year’s nocturnal race in Sevilla showed. This year is a little different due to the venue; to have the time trial later at night on the beach front would be a little tricky as the bars would be very busy and the over spill could get out of hand. The timing should be about right before things get too wild. Maybe see you there or maybe on holiday in Benidorm?
A Benidorm View
Stay PEZ for all the Vuelta action!