Vuelta 2018: The Route (facts and rumours)

Vuelta 2018 RouteOn the 25th of August, the 2018 Vuelta a España sets off with an individual in Málaga to finisht in Madrid on the 16th of September. What to expect from the most mountainous Grand Tour on the calendar? brings you the facts and rumours (Slideshow route/profile)

The Vuelta a España is set to start with an individual time trial of 10 kilometres. The riders will roll of the ramp at the Centre Pompidou Málaga. In 2015, the Andalucian coastal town hosted the Tour of Spain for the last time and Peter Sagan sprinted to victory in its streets ahead of Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb.

The Vuelta’s route is yet to be announced, but rumour has it the race start will follow a similar route to 2015. At the time, the first few days of action took in arrivals near the Caminito del Rey, Vejer de la Frontera and Alcalá de Guadaíra (we don’t mention Marbella as this TTT was a disaster and the recorded times were not used for the rest of the Vuelta). The Málaga province is expected to host three stages before the race heads out to other parts of Spain.

Following the departure from Andalucia it seems likely the race will then head for Castilla-La Mancha. At the end of the first week, Salamanca is a likely target. In 2011, the Vuelta visited the capital of the province with the same name for the last time; Tony Martin took the individual time trial. The stage on the 2nd of September supposedly leads to a summit finish in ski resort La Covatilla. Furthermore, we can expect a stage in the province of Biscay, which is part the Basque Country, while a return to Lagos de Cavadonga and La Camperona are in order, too.

“We are once again betting on uphill finishes, which could number between eight, those that are already secured, and 10,” according to race director Javier Guillén. “Of those, two finishes will be brand new.”

Reportedly, the stage to the Lagos de Covadonga will start in Oviedo. The climb to the renowned lakes is 12.2 kilometres at 7.2% – a statistic that’s biased by 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 Lagos de Covadonga. The following day brings the Biscay arrival at Mount Oiz, a peak that has never been included in La Vuelta. Beginning in the town Gernika the road climbs for 15 kilometres, five of which on concrete. The ascent is extremely irregular with double digit sections followed by (false) flat stretches. The 2 kilometres before the summit are steep though, and only that. The ramps hardly go under 11% and the steepest parts are up to 17%.

Reportedly, the race has an arrival on the unprecedented Pico del Buitre in Aragón up its sleeve. The mountains peaks at 2,019 metres near the Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre and to get there the riders face 12 kilometres of uphill torture. The average gradient is 7.5%, while the last 5 kilometres are toughest with ramps of up to 15%. Furthermore, the drag up to the observatory is partly on dust roads.

An arrival at Les Praeres de Nava is in pipeline, too. 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%. However, the condition of the road is poor and La Farrapona seems to be the alternative if it doesn’t work out to include Les Praeres de Nava. La Farrapona is a prototypical Vuelta-climb: extremely irregular and demanding, although the average gradient of 6% is modest. The climb amounts to 16.8 kilometres and the last time it was included in La Vuelta, in 2014, Alberto Contador bested Chris Froome in single combat.

The full route of the 2018 Vuelta a España will be revealed on 13 January 2018.

Grande Salida 2019 and 2020
Alicante is the most likely candidate to host the Gran Salida in 2019, while Utrecht is the most serious option for the start of the 2020 Vuelta a España.

The Vuelta a España is the least geographically adventurous of the three Grand Tours. The race ventured outside Spain for a start for the first time to neighbouring Portugal in 1997. Drenthe, the Netherlands, hosted the second foreign Gran Salida in 2009 and the third and last foreign start was in 2017 in Nîmes, France.

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