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Once more with Methusalem (daily newspaper Junge Welt)

Of course, the focus: Alejandro Valverde draws everyone’s attention when he says goodbye

The last Grand Tour of the 2022 racing year is coming up: The 77th edition of the Vuelta a España starts tomorrow, Friday, in Utrecht. After the Giro d’Italia in Hungary and the Tour de France in Denmark had already started this year, the Tour of Spain in 2022 is driving to the Netherlands. One can argue about the usefulness of taking a tour of the country through foreign realms. It is definitely welcome when the renowned races open up. Gladly close to the limit. This wonderful and exciting cycling sport is brought closer to an even wider audience. However, if a transfer of 1,300 kilometers or more is necessary due to the trip abroad, as is currently the case with the three major national tours, this is hardly justifiable.

The Vuelta starts with a team time trial over 23.3 kilometers in Utrecht. This revives a tradition from the early 2000s. We saw the last team time trial in 2019 at the Salinas (salt lakes) of Torrevieja. With the discipline, teams with mostly good time trialists are preferred. These usually include the contenders for overall victory. The team Jumbo-Visma, the team of defending champion Primoz Roglic, should already position itself for the team time trial. Because the Slovenian wants to wear the red jersey of the Tour of Spain to Madrid again after his early exit from the Tour de France. With four overall victories he can equal the record of the Spaniard Roberto Heras. For a long time it was unclear whether the former ski jumper Roglic would compete at all. After his major fall on the cobblestone stage of the Tour de France, the 32-year-old struggled through the race for ten more days and then had to give up in pain. His team never explained how serious Roglic’s injuries really were. Rumor has it that he was traveling with two broken vertebrae.

In total, this year’s Vuelta covers a distance of 3,280 kilometers and eight mountain finishes. After the team time trial and two flat stages in the Netherlands, the absurd mega transfer of the entire tour convoy follows. Next Monday, the first day of rest, we will fly to the Basque Country, almost 1,300 kilometers away. On the three stages through the autonomous region, with Bilbo (Bilbao) as the destination of the fifth stage, the climbing skills of the protagonists are immediately tested. The first tough test awaits on the climb to Pico Jano during stage 6 next Thursday. Only two days later we go to the Colláu Fancuaya. The two climbs in Cantabria and Asturias are on the Vuelta stage plan for the first time. After the second day of rest, the only individual time trial will be held, over a flat 30.9 kilometers to Alicante. However, in order to reach the starting point in Elx (Elche) in Valencia, another 1,000-kilometer transfer is planned. madness, all that. Incidentally, in the course of the entire Vuelta, the peloton is actually carted around after each stage, only the Basque Bilbo is, in good tradition, the destination and the next day also the starting point.

As usual, the decision about the overall victory falls in the mountains. After the individual battle against the clock, the second week of racing is one after the other. The ascent on the increasingly demanding stages culminates on the Sunday before the second rest day with the 2,512 meter high Alto de la Hoya in the Sierra Nevada.

The Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, winner of the 2009 Vuelta, will probably have nothing to do with the outcome of the 77th Vuelta a España. The 42-year-old will contest his last major stage race at the Tour of Spain. The Methuselah of professional cycling inevitably takes center stage on his farewell tour home. Last year, after a spectacular fall down a slope, he had to give up the race early in tears. That’s not how an old master resigns.

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