The Vuelta a España is set to start with an individual time trial of 8 kilometres. The riders will roll down the ramp at the Centre Pompidou Málaga and tackle a punchy climb halfway.
The 2nd stage runs from Marbella to a punchy finish at Caminito del Rey. In 2015 this was an unprecedented climb in La Vuelta and Esteban Chaves countered an attack by Tom Dumoulin to win the race 5 seconds ahead of the Dutchman. The final climb is 3.4 kilometres at 7%.
Stage 3 is played out in the hills above Torremolinos on a route running from Mijas to Alhaurín de la Torre. In the 4th stage the race leaves Málaga to travel to the neighbouring province Granada. Following the start in Vélez-Málaga the route moves through Nerja, Almunecar and Otívar, which means a climb up the A-4050, or Carretera de la Cabra. The race ends with a 12.4 closing climb in the Sierra de la Alfaguara, just north of the city of Granada. The climb is averaging 5.6% and the steepest ramps are 20%.
Stage 5 runs from Granada to Roquetas de Mar and stage 6 is set to start in Huércal-Overa and finish in San Javier. The 7th stage will go from Puerto Lambreras to Pozo Alcón, while the 8th stage travels from Linares to Almadén.
On the 2nd of September the 9th stage leads to a summit finish in ski resort La Covatilla, 90 kilometres south of Salamanca. The next day is a rest day, while the second week of action begins with a leg from Salamanca to Bermillo de Sayago, close to Portugal.
On the 5th and 6th of September La Vuelta is set to visit Galicia. The 11th stage will finish in Luíntra – a race with a tricky finale – and the other one in Estaca de Bares, a peninsula in La Coruña that penetrates deep into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the northernmost point of Spain.
At the end of the second week, stage 13 takes in a summit finish at the Asturian mountain La Camperona – as it did in 2014 and 2016. The route takes in an intermediate climb up the Puerto de Tarna (1,490 metres) before heading to the closing climb with ramps of over 20% in the last 3 kilometres.
The following day, stage 14, the caravan sets off from Cistierna to return to Asturias via the Puerto de San Isidro (1,520 metres). This leg brings the unprecedented finish at Les Praeres de Nava. The climb in the Sierra de Peñamayor is a 5 kilometres torture with an average gradient of 13.5%, while the steepest ramps (just before the top) go up at 23%.
Stage 15 sets off in Ribera de Arriba and the finish is at the iconic Lagos de Cavadonga. The climb to the renowned lakes is 12.2 kilometres at 7.2% – a statistic that’s biased by a 1 kilometre drop just before the summit, after which the dying metres of the race have slopes of up to 17.5% in store. Two editions ago, Nairo Quintana pocketed the stage honours at Lagos de Covadonga.
The last week of action begins with an individual time trial of 32.7 kilometres to Torrelavega. The following day La Vuelta offers a Biscay arrival at Mount Oiz, a peak that has never been included in the Spanish Grand Tour. Starting in the town Gernika the road climbs for 15 kilometres, five of which are on concrete. The ascent is extremely irregular with double digit sections followed by (false) flat stretches. The 2 kilometres before the summit are insanely steep though. Only double digit ramps and the steepest stretches rise at up to 17%.
Catalunya will host an arrival in Lleida at stage 18, where the 19th stage then will leave for the last two mountain stages in neighbouring Andorra before the parade stage in Madrid on the final day.
As said, the first stage to Andorra starts in Lleida. The route runs almost entirely on a false flat to the the foot of the Col de la Rabassa, a 14 kilometres climb a 6.6%. The 20th stage will be entirely played out in the Principality and takes in five intermediate climbs to culminate at the Coll de la Gallina, a monster with 18% switchbacks at the summit.
Vuelta a España 2018: Route map, height profiles, and more
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Profile 20th stage
Profile 21st stage
stage 13: details La Camperona
stage 15: details Lagos de Covadonga