The Vuelta a España used to be 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.
Stage 1 of La Vuelta is a TTT of 23.7 kilometres in Utrecht. The route is pan-flat, but features a technical first section through the old town. Utrecht hosted the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in 2015.
The 2nd stage begins in ‘s Hertogenbosch and heads back to Utrecht. The 183 kilometres route takes in some uphill sections at the Utrecht Hill Ridge with the Grebbeberg standing out. Yet, a bunch sprint is next to certain.
Stage 3 is set in the south of the Netherlands. Both start and finish are in Breda and the route features flat to rolling roads, so this is another opportunity for fast men. This race amounts to 193 kilometres.
The Vuelta returns to home soil in the 4th stage for the first uphill finish at the end of a race between Irún and the Sanctuary of Arrate. The finish climb is 5 kilometres long and slopes at 8.8%, while the last 2 kilometres are undulating.
Stage 5 travels on undulating terrain from Pamplona to a promising finale in Lekunberri. Firstly, a 9.9 kilometres at 7.8% on a mumby concrete road; secondly, a 17 kilometres downhill to the line. The 6th stage finishes uphill at Laguna Negra after a long (18 kilometres) but far from steep (3.6%) climb.
The 7th stage travels from Soria to Ejea de los Caballeros before stage 8 brushes against the Pyrenees in a race from Huesca to Sabiñánigo. La Vuelta crosses the mountain range in stage 9 via EL Portalet to finish in France. Following an intermediate climb on the Aubisque the riders continue to Luz-Saint-Sauveur to tackle the Col du Tourmalet: 19 kilometres at 7.4% with the last kilometre an unforgiving 10.5%.
Stage 10 goes from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Valdegovía, where Jay McCarthy sprinted to victory on the 2018 Tour of the Basque Country, before the climbers and GC riders will rejoice in another summit finish. Stage 11 climbs to Moncalvillo, which is an ascent of 11 kilometres with an average slope of 9%.
Two chances for sprinters – stage 12 and stage 13 – make way for a huge GC battle in the final weekend of the second week. The 14th stage finishes at La Farrapona, a 16.5 kilometres climb at 6.2%, which is – again – a biased statistic as the last 6.5 kilometres rise at 9.4%.
Stage 15 is something else altogether, as the mythical Alto de El Angliru is on the cards. The 12.5 kilometres climb slopes at 9.8%, although it is fair to dat that there are three Angliru’s. The first 5 kilometres go up at 8% and following a relatively flat kilometre the rest of the mountain is pure horror with an average gradient of 15%. The steepest sector of 23.5% – aptly named Cueña les Cabres (goat path) – appears 3 kilometres before the top.
The 16th stage is an ITT for punchers. Pure time trialists will love most of the 32.5 kilometres route, but must be horrified by the last 1.8 kilometres. The Mirador de Ézaro comes with an average gradient of 14.6%.
Stage 17 is a hilly race through the Galician interior before stage 18 leaves Spain to enter Portugal for a sprint finish in Porto. The 19th stage travels back to Spain on an undulating route, which – again – favours a bunch sprint.
Still one more mountainous test to go. Stage 20 serves the last summit finish on the 2020 Vuelta in skistation La Covatilla. Following five uphill tests underway the finish climb is 9.8 kilometres long and its average gradient sits at 7.1%.
The Spanish Grand Tour concludes with a city circuit in Madrid. The finish of stage 21 is at the Plaza de Cibeles.
Vuelta a España 2020: routes, profiles, more
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