Where: Andalusia, Spain
When: February 17-21 2016
Rank: UCI 2.1 Europe Tour

The Vuelta a Andalucia, more commonly known as the Ruta del Sol, features a start list packed with Grand Tour talent looking to get some early-season kilometres in their legs.

But it’s also a chance for some of their domestiques to snatch a chance at glory, and veteran sprinter Daniele Bennati of Tinkoff did just that as he powered to victory in the disjointed finish to stage one of the 2016 race.

He didn’t hold on to the overall lead for long though, as Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) claimed the red jersey with his stage win on the second day, before Ben Swift (Team Sky) rode into the lead on a tough third stage.

The Briton wasn’t able to hold on to it for long though, losing the red jersey in the time trial on stage four to Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who rose to the top of the GC to set up an intriguing fight with the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) on the final mountain stage on Sunday.

Valverde won the final stage, powering to a solo victory on the climb of Peñas Blancas to overhaul van Garderen’s lead and claim the overall honours ahead of the American.

The 2015 edition of the race featured Chris Froome (Sky) – who decided against his usual season opener at the Tour of Oman – as well as Contador in their first clash of the season, with the Englishman edging out the Spaniard by a mere two seconds to break Alejandro Valverde‘s (who returns in 2016) three-year stranglehold on the Route of the Sun.

It was victory on the fourth stage that cemented the overall victory for Froome, attacking towards the top of the final climb to Alto de Allanadas. Only Contador was able to follow the two-time Tour de France winner, but even El Pistolero eventually relented and conceded the two-second lead which Froome would hold until the end of the race, marking his first GC win over the Spaniard since the 2013 Tour de France.

Key riders:  Alejandro Valverde | Rafal Majka | Tejay van Garderen

Previous editions: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

External links: Official website (es) | Official twitter feed (es)

Full list of riders and teams taking part in the 2016 Ruta del Sol in Spain, from February 17-21

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