The Vuelta a España Grand Tour is one of professional cycling’s most high-profile events, competing only with the Tour De France and Giro d’Italia. It’s a brutal 23 day, 3315.4 kilometer event that demands the very best of its riders.
Naturally, we can’t wait for the Vuelta and want you to follow along! Since they’ve released a list of the 21 varied stages included in the event, we’re excited to share our picks for what stages are sure to include some of the most intense and spectacular moments of the event.
This 163 kilometer stage will be one the first to keep your eyes peeled on. It features some of the most varied and gorgeous terrain in the race, going from heights as high as 670 meters at the 58.3 kilometer mark to as low as 10 meters above sea level at both 17.9 kilometer and 149 kilometer into the stage.
This stage is going to be a great barometer for early General Classification positioning. If riders came in to the Vuelta physically or mentally unprepared, this is where we’re going to start to see it. This will also be a great early opportunity for climbers to start making a difference across the 3 long climbs, with the 11.2 kilometer long category 2 climb right before the end sure to be a victorious moment for many.
Lugones / Lagos de Covadonga is a prolific Vuelta classic, ending with a pair of the highest ascents in the event – a 6.2 kilometer long category 1 climb at a gradient of 7.8% followed by a grueling 12.2 kilometer category H climb up at 7.2% (with gradients as high as 17.5% at its steepest). If any riders were unprepared for stage 4, stage 10’s 188.7 kilometers will break them.
It’s also notable as the last stage of the first brutal 10 days of the Vuelta. With a day of rest following this race, the riders will be giving it their all, and I believe it’s here that we’ll see our General Classification leaders emerge and, much like Stage 4, climbers are going to be critical in delivering a strong finish.
At 213.4 kilometers, stage 13 – the longest of the Vuelta – is going to be play host to a lot of risk-taking with respect to saving and expending energy. Despite its length, this stage is still host to several category 3 climbs near the end of the race, and 5 smaller, but still exhausting climbs besides that. As the final 5 kilometers are comprised of a descent, the end of this stage should make a thrilling watch, as the cyclists push for positioning at the last moments, with sprinters and climbers both having an advantage.
Those that have the endurance can make a big difference in their general classification and positioning in this stage if they’re willing to grit their teeth and put in the effort, but those gains come at a high price.
This 196.1 kilometer stage is what smart riders save their energy for on stage 13. Known as the “crowning stage of this years Vuelta”, this is the stage you can’t miss.
Look at the profile of this stage… just... look at it.
It features 4 unforgiving mountain passes:
- A 11.5 kilometer long, 7.1% gradient category 1 climb up Col Inharpu.
- A 24 kilometer long, 5.2% gradient category 1 climb up Col du Soudet.
- A 9.2 kilometer long, 7.5% gradient category 1 climb up Col de Marie
- A 16.5 kilometer long, 7.1% gradient (with 2 sections featuring a gradient of 15%), category H climb up Col d’Aubisque
If stage 4 was a good indicator of early Vuelta GC leaders and stage 10 is a good indicator of mid Vuelta GC leaders, then Urdax-Dantxarinea / Aubisque – Gourette is going to be the crucible in which the overall Vuelta leaders are forged and it’s going to be a hell of a ride watching it happen.
Much like stage 10, stage 16’s 156.4 kilometers are another endurance test, ending with a rest day afterwards. It’s comprised of a steady, exhausting climb for the first 90 kilometers, before dipping into a steady decline for the remainder of the course. While undoubtedly a sign of relief for many riders, this point is going to be an important section for sprinters, who should put on a great display using the last of their energy to take the lead.
At only 37km of relatively flat terrain, this is going to be a fantastic stage for the best sprinters in the race to let loose and give it their all. While it’s unlikely that the winner of this stage is going to be the one who takes home the overall Vuelta a España win, it’s still going to be an incredible, must see display of athleticism.
One of the key stretches of this stage is going to be the descent at 15.8 kilometers from 175 meters to 15 meters in just over 5 kilometers, with the remaining 16 kilometers being comprised of primarily flat terrain, so gaining as much momentum as possible is going to make the difference between success and failure here.
The final stage of any grand tour is often an exciting moment and the last stage of the Vuelta a España is no exception. As another flat stage, the final, relatively short 104.8 kilometers will be a great time for sprinters, tearing through Las Rozas and ultimately winding through the streets of Madrid towards victory.
This year’s Vuelta a España is sure to be a great tour with decisive victories, crushing defeats, and great riding all around.Watch along with us and let us know what your favorite moments are in the comments!