This Saturday, September 1, sees the start of the final Grand Tour of the 2007 season, the Tour of Spain.

The 62nd edition of the Vuelta a Espana kicks of with a lumpy 145km opening stage starting and finishing in Vigo, in the extreme north-west of the country. The riders then travel east through the Pyrenees and on to Andorra in a tough first week, before dropping south to Granada and then back up through central Spain for the traditional finale in Madrid. In total, the 21 stages comprise 3,241 kilometres of racing including two individual time trials – one on the penultimate stage.

No Vino
The big news is that none of last year’s Tour of Spain top three will ride this year’s event. Overall winner Alexandre Vinkourov is not riding – and neither will the Kazakh’s squad, Astana. They have been excluded from the event thanks to Vinokourov’s positive test for blood doping during July’s Tour de France. Vino’s team-mate and compatriot Andrey Kaschechkin, third last year, will also not ride. Kasechkin failed a blood doping test immediately after the Tour.

Alejandro Valverde, second last year, is also not riding, preferring to concentrate on other races. There is on-going speculation regarding Valverde’s involvement in the Operacion Puerto investigation which unearthed organised doping centred around the Madrid laboratory of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. Whether this has anything to do with his – or his team’s – decision for him not to ride is unknown.

Contenders
Likely contenders for the overall include highest place rider from last year’s race in the start list, Carlos Sastre (CSC), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse D’Epargne), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), Jose Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval), Manuel Beltran (Liquigas), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

There are no British riders in attendance this year, although honorary Brit Magnus Backstedt – the Swede lives in Wales with his family – is down to start for his Liquigas squad. Philip Deignan of Ireland is also on Ag2r’s line-up.

CW COVERAGE
Cycling Weekly will be covering the race day-by-day on www.cyclingweekly.co.uk and in the magazine. We’ll be featuring daily reports, news, analysis and exclusive photographs from the event.

TEAMS
21 teams, each with nine riders, make up the start list. They are:
Ag2r
Andalucia Caja Sur
Bouygues Telecom
Caisse D?Epargne
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone
Credit Agricole
Discovery Channel
Euskaltel-Euskadi
Francaise des Jeux
Gerolsteiner
Karpin Galicia
Lampre-Fondital
Liquigas
Predictor-Lotto
Quickstep-Innergetic
Rabobank
Relax-Gam
Saunier Duval-Prodir
Team CSC
Team Milram
T-Mobile Team

STAGES

Date Stage Start-Finish Length
Saturday Sept 1 1 Vigo-Vigo 145km
Sunday Sept 2 2 Allariz-Santiago de Compostela 150km
Monday Sept 3 3 Viveiro-Luarca 155km
Tuesday Sept 4 4 Langreos-Lagos de Covadonga 82km
Wednesday Sept 5 5 Cangas de Onis-Reinosa 155km
Thursday Sept 6 6 Reinosa-Logrono 195km
Friday Sept 7 7 Calahorra-Zaragoza 140km
Saturday Sept 8 8 Carinena-Zaragoza 49km (TT)
Sunday Sept 9 9 Huesca-Cerler 174km
Monday Sept 10 10 Benasque-Arcalis (Andorra) 220km
Tuesday Sept 11 Rest day
Wednesday Sept 12 11 Oropesa-Algemesi 190km
Thursday Sept 13 12 Algemesi-Hellin 167km
Friday Sept 14 13 Hellin-Torre Pacheco 150km
Saturday Sept 15 14 Puerto Lumbreras-Villacarrillo 205km
Sunday Sept 16 15 Villacarrillo-Granada 205km
Monday Sept 17 Rest day
Tuesday Sept 18 16 Jaen-Puertollano 165km
Wednesday Sept 19 17 Ciudad Real-Talavera de la Reina 180km
Thursday Sept 20 18 Talavera de la Reina-Avila 154km
Friday Sept 21 19 Avila-Alto de Abantos 135km
Saturday Sept 22 20 Collado Villalba-Collado Villalba (individual time trial) 25km
Sunday Sept 23 21 Rivas Vaciamadrid-Madrid 100km

Total distance: 3,241km

RELATED LINKS
Astana out of 2007 Tour of Spain
Eurosport cycling TV schedule for September
Vuelta confirms support for ASO in ProTour row
Vinokourov wins 2006 Tour of Spain overall

Official site: www.lavuelta.com.