The route navigates the plateaus of northwestern Spain and, for Vuelta standards, the course is pretty regular. The riders are racing at an altitude of approximately 800 metres.
Departure place Salamanca is defined by its university, which dates back to 1218 and is the third-oldest in Europe. Firstly, the route takes the riders on a loop to the east and at kilometre 48 they once again move through Salamanca. The course runs along the south side of the River Tormes to the Portuguese border. A large part of the race runs along the reservoir behind the Almendra Dam, that backs up 2.5 billion cubic metres of water and several drowned villages.
At kilometre 132 the route drops down from 800 metres to 435 metres. The riders cross the Tormes Rivier before they have to go back up again, a 6 kilometres climb at a little over 4%. The ascent continues and after 8 more kilometres the Alto la Venta de los Arribes is crested.
No descent at the top, the route is back again at its regular altitude – 800 metres above sea level. Still 20 kilometres to go in northeasterly direction before a likely sprint showdown in Bermillo de Sayago.