January 12, 2017 / 9:37 PM / 6 months ago

Cycling - Nine mountain challenges await Vuelta riders

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Astana's Fabio Aru of Italy celebrates after winning the Vuelta Tour of Spain after the last stage of the cycling race between Alcala de Henares and Madrid, September 13, 2015.Javier Barbancho

MADRID (Reuters) - Complaints from many riders that the Vuelta a Espana has included too many punishing climbs in recent years fell on deaf ears as organisers unveiled another demanding route on Thursday featuring nine mountain finishes.

While the opening stage will take place outside Spain for only the third time, with riders setting off in Nimes, France, on Aug. 19, other aspects of the three-week race will concern those taking part.

The penultimate stage will require riders to head up to Angliru, Spain's toughest single climb in the northern region.

British sprint specialist Mark Cavendish was among those who felt recent Vuelta routes have become far too challenging and labelled them "stupid".

"We are looking for the race to remain spicy during the three weeks, for it to go from less to more," race organiser Javier Guillen said.

"The Angliru is the colossus. The Angliru will be a good judge of the Vuelta."

The 2017 edition features one mountain finish less than last year, with competitors required to tackle three summit finishes each week.

The 3,297.7-km race will include 21 stages, heading to Andorra, Catalonia, the Valencia region, southern Andalusia province before finishing in Madrid on Sept. 10.

The last time the race started abroad was in 2009 in Assen, Netherlands.

With Movistar's Nairo Quintana not expected to defend his title, Team Sky rider Chris Froome could finally land his first Vuelta victory having finished second in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

Reporting by Adriana Garcia, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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