Mas kilometros. Mas exigencia, Mas montaña. Mas desafios, Mas San Luis.
The Tour de San Luis is the biggest race in Argentina and was awarded a 2.1 UCI ranking for its third edition. Starting Monday January 19, the riders will face three mountain top finishes, one 12-mile (19.8 km) time trial over seven stages in seven days, which is two more than last year. The lowest point for the overall 630 mile (1014.5 km) is Villa Mercedes at 1444 feet (440 m) and the highest point is the finish at La Carolina, at 5216 feet (1590 m).
As Rock Racing had to pull out due to issues with their UCI Continental license (which were resolved), a total of twenty-one teams including three Pro Tour, Continental, European Pro Continental and National teams are on the starting list. The Pro Tour teams, Liquigas with Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali, Fuji-Servetto and Saxo Bank are mostly present to get some racing and training into their legs while enjoying the nice weather. Expect Argentinean JJ Haedo of Saxo Bank will feel the pressure to do well in front of a local crowd.
For both the American teams, the goal is simple, get ready for the Tour of California. The Colavita/Sutter Home team decided to start its season in Argentina for a second year in a row, and both fastmen Sebastian Haedo (JJ’s brother) and Alejandro Borrajo would also like to pull out a win in front of a local crowd. With two new riders on the squad, Andy Jacques-Maynes and Kirk O’Bee and a new assistant DS, Eric Wohlberg, the race is a perfect opportunity for Bissell to test the new team.
Last year’s winner Martin Garrido (Palmeiras Resort) who took hold of the yellow jersey in the prologue is returning to defend his title. His competitors include last year’s second place finisher Gerardo Fernandez (Argentina-A) and 2007 winner Jorge Giacinti (Scott Brasil) who finished third last year. Both Giacinto and Fernandez has just won a stage in the 3-stage Giro del Sol San Juan that was held last week in Argentina.
Other teams to watch include Tecos-Trek with their dangerous climbers and the aggressive Sparkasse from Germany, and the Italian teams Diquigiovanni and ISD. Gold medal winners in the Men’s Madison at the Beijing Olympic Games, Juan Curuchet and Walter Perez will also be racing for the Argentina-A National team. (Start list available here)
No prologue this year. The 105-mile (168.4 km) stage 1 starts off in San Luis with nearly 656 feet (200m) climb to the top of La Cumbre in the first 12 miles (20 kms) followed by a downhill dash through Justo Daract to finish in Villa Mercedes. Last year, JJ Haedo won this stage after avoiding a big crash in the final 100 meters to the line.
Stage 2 is the first mountain-top finish. Starting in San Luis, the 108 mile (174.4 km) course takes the riders over two Cat 3 climbs before the final 3-mile (4.8km) climb with an average gradient of 6.7% to the top of Mirador del Potrero (1210 m). Last year, Carlos Ochoa (Diquigiovanni) won a similar stage that finished with the same climb.
Stage 3 is the flat 12-mile (19,8 km) individual time trial with 5 turns including two at 180 degrees held around the Jose Santos Ortiz velodrome. Look for Basso and Bissell’s Tom Zirbel to test their legs on this one.
The 99-mile (159-km) stage 4 starts in San Luis, includes three loops around a 12-mile (20km) circuit with a Cat 3 climb and ends with a mountain top finish at the highest point of the race, La Carolina at 5216 feet (1590 m).
Stage 5 is another one for the climbers. The 127-mile (204.8 km) course starts off in San Francisco del Monte de Oro, a tough Cat 2 climb at the 55 mile (88 km) mark to finish up with a 13 mile (21.8 km), 2165 feet (660 m) climb with an average gradient 5.8% of to the top of Mirador del Sol.
If any sprinters survived, stage 6 is for them. A flat 75 mile (121 km) starting and finishing with 3.8-mile (6.1 km) circuits on a race track in Potrero de los Funes.
The race ends on Sunday January 25 with a circuit in San Luis. The 104-mile (167.1 km) stage 7 offers three loops around a 30-mile (49-km) undulating circuit with a Cat 3 climb and finishes with a downhill sprint to the line.