The above promotional video is one of the more peculiar you’re likely to see: There aren’t many road race promo videos with dolphins in, but it does illustrate well the terrain that the athletes will be facing over the 7 stages of Vuelta El Salvador. El Salvador isn’t mountainous, is Volcanious! There are more than 20 volcanoes in a country about the same size as Wales. The terrain isn’t the only challenge, road surfaces are variable: In built-up areas severe potholes are common and claimed the lives of a number of carbon wheels last year whilst others “escaped” with multiple punctures. As the roads head into the countryside it’s not uncommon for the tarmac roads to be replaced by narrow, gravel stretches with little advance notice. As if this isn’t enough of a challenge, temperatures of 35°C+ are a regular occurrence at this time of year. Most stages will start early in the day to avoid the worst of the midday heat but temperatures can still be high, even at 9am.
Prize money for the race overall totals $7,725. Broken down as follows:
|Half Stages||Full Stages||Final GC|
|Position||Prize (USD)||Position||Prize (USD)||Position||Prize (USD)|
Some of the better known teams racing include Be Pink, Pasta-Zara Manhattan and Vanderkitten who are joined by a number of regional and international teams. Each team can have a minimum of 5 in the team and a maximum of 8 in their roster. The full start list of 90 riders from the 13 teams taking part can be found here including links to rider and team’s social media:
Stage 1 – La Libertad to Nahuizalco – 95km – 28th February
A repeat of Stage 1 from 2012 won my Noemi Cantele. Starting in La Libertad, a beach resort south of San Salvador the race weaves along the stunning coastline, with a series of tunnels cut through the mountainsides taking the worst out of the climbs. After the route turns north and inland the road points upward too: Climbing 553 metres in the final 35km. The ascent is split into two distinct sections separated by a 4km long plateau. The road then levels out for a final 1km dash to the line in Nahuizalco.
Stage 2 – Santa Tecla – 11km Team Time Trial – 1st March
The first of two stages today is an 11km team time trial in Santa Tecla just 15km outside the capital, San Salvador. The rolling parcours features some technical turns so the time gaps may be larger than you might expect.
Stage 3 – Santa Tecla – 77km Criterium – 1st March
The afternoon criterium that is stage 3 uses part of the route used for this morning’s TTT and the 10km lap on which the stage is based is about as flat a section of road you could find anywhere in El Salvador.
Stage 4 – Apopa to Boqueron – 50km – 2nd March
After yesterday’s double header there will be some tired legs this morning before stage 4. The riders will be thankful for the short 50km stage but the day will be far from easy. The test of the day will will rarely be out of sight as the riders skirt around the northern base of Quetzaltepec, the volcano that dominates the San Salvador skyline. The final 14km which involves a 1100m increase in elevation to the finish a-top the volcano at the Boqueron crater. The cut off time for this stage is +15% of the stage winner. With such a short stage and a steep, sustained climb to the finish some of the riders not known for their climbing might struggle to make the cut off time which could be under 15 minutes.
Stage 5 – Salvador del Mundo – 53.2km Criterium – 3rd March
4 laps of the 13.3km anti-clockwise circuit make up stage 5. The first 3 km of each lap climb by over 111m and the profile of the remainder of the lap is gentle descent for the climb to begin again. With long straights any trying to breakaway will rarely be out of sight. The format of the race is likely to be a leg sapping: Escape! Chase. Escape! Chase. And repeat.
Stage 6 - Olocuilta – 115km – 4th March
The penultimate and at 115km the longest stage of this year’s race. The course is an out and back route from Olocuilta. The town is situated south-east and is famous for its Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish consisting of a thick tortilla stuffed with meat and cheese (sounds a lot like a posh cheese toastie!).
The roads taken in and out of Olocuilta are different but pass over the same terrain so a profile of the second half of the course is almost a mirror image of the first half.
Stage 7 - Nueva Concepcion to Santa Ana – 90km – 5th March
The small northern town of Nueva Concepcion hosts the start of the final stage of this year’s Vuelta. Whilst none of the climbs are excessively high today the profile resembles crocodile’s teeth. Riders will either be climbing or descending for almost the entire stage to the finish in Santa Ana where this year’s winner will be crowned.