VUELTA’22 BREAKDOWN: Five Spanish Takeaways

Vuelta Route Breakdown

Vuelta’22 Breakdown: Now that we know the 2022 Vuelta a España route, Spencer Martin takes a good look and gives us his ‘Breakdown’ and his ‘Five Takeaways’ on the Spanish Grand Tour. The Vuelta could be ‘the best Grand Tour of 2022’.

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The route details for La Vuelta a España, the sport’s third, and until recently, somewhat forgotten grand tour, were released in full this past week and signal the Spanish race is confirming its commitment to building its reputation as the sport’s most exciting three-week race. While at first glance, ASO, the race organizer, was forced to create a more slow-burn course compared to recent years due to the race’s foreign start in Utrecht, the Netherlands, the second and third weeks are packed with an embarrassment of uphill finish riches.


Will we have another Roglič/Pogačar Vuelta battle in 2022?

Any true details regarding start lists and contender composition will be difficult to come by until the week before the event, but if the trends of the past few years are anything to go by, we will get an all-star list of GC talent duking it out on the courses incredibly numerous and extremely difficult uphill finishes. If the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France carry more prestige, the Vuelta has the advantage of being the last stop for any riders who have suffered disappointments at the sport’s first two grand tours (aka every rider who didn’t win the Giro or Tour). And even those who have had experienced success in previous grand tours have been known to show up in an attempt to capitalize on their great form and pad their Palmarès (i.e. Chris Froome 2017, Egan Bernal 2021). This calendar dynamic, along with its pleasant laid-back atmosphere outside the racing, gives the Vuelta a massive leg up on the other two grand tours and can often create the best racing of the season.


‘The best racing of the season’

2022 Vuelta a España Stage Overview
Stage 1: Utrecht > Utrecht (23.2km)-TTT
Stage 2: Hertogenbosch > Utrecht (181.6km)-Flat
Stage 3: Breda > Breda (193.2km)-Flat
Rest Day-August 22nd
Stage 4: Vitoria > Gasteiz – Laguardia (153.5km)-Hilly w/uphill finish
Stage 5: Irún > Bilbao 187km-Hilly
Stage 6: Bilbao > Pico del Jano 180km-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Stage 7: Camargo > Cistierna (190.1km)-Hilly
Stage 8: Pola de Laviana > Collado Fancuaya (154.6km)-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Stage 9: Villaviciosa > Les Praeres Nava (175.5km)-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Rest Day – August 29th
Stage 10: Elche > Alicante (31.1km)-ITT
Stage 11: El Pozo > Cabo de Gata (193km)-Flat
Stage 12: Salobreña > Peñas Blancas (195.5km)-Mountain w/Summit Finish
Stage 13: Ronda > Montilla (171km)-Flat
Stage 14: Montoro > Sierra de La Pandera (160.3km)-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Stage 15: Martos > Sierra Nevada (148.1km)-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Rest Day: September 5th
Stage 16: Sanlúcar de Barrameda > Tomares (188.9km)-Flat
Stage 17: Aracena > Monasterio de Tentudía (160km)-Hilly w/uphill finish
Stage 18: Trujillo > Alto del Piornal (191.7km)-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Stage 19: Talavera de la Reina > Talavera de la Reina (132.7km)-Hilly
Stage 20: Moralzarzal > Puerto de Navacerrada (175.5km)-Mountains w/Summit Finish
Stage 21: Las Rozas > Madrid (100.5km)-Flat

Breakdown by Stage Type:

  • 8 Mountain Stages
    • 8 Summit Finishes
  • 6 Flat Stage
  • 5 Hilly Stages
    • 2 uphill finishes
  • 2 Time Trials
    • 1 Team Time Trial – 23.2-kilometers
    • 1 Individual Time Trial – 31-kilometers

    Five Takeaways:
    1) The team time trial returns after a three-year absence from all grand tours.

    • The race format has fallen out of favor in grand tours in recent years, with the last time it occurred being stage 1 of the 2019 Vuelta a España. However, while it has been out of the rotation with recent grand tours, the format is a staple of the Spanish grand tour, with seven out of the last ten Vueltas featuring a team time trial on the opening stage.
    • Its inclusion will favor teams like Jumbo-Visma who have an embarrassment of TT-talent riches and will likely want to pack as many of their time trialists like Tom Dumoulin, Rohan Dennis, and, of course, Primož Roglič, into their Vuelta lineup. What should worry rival teams is the fact that the trio made up the entire podium for the time trial event at the recent Tokyo Olympics.
    • I would imagine Ineos is already penciling in Filippo Ganna for the race due to his world-beating time trial ability, as well as his massive frame, which allows him to generate a substantial draft that will allow his GC-focused teammates to be pulled along.
    • While in the past the team has been considered a force in the discipline, especially after they propelled Egan Bernal to the 2019 Tour de France title using the stage 2 team time trial, but they have lost a significant amount of talent and ground to the rest of the peloton in the discipline over recent seasons. Outside of Ganna, the only other rider from the team to win a WorldTour-level time trial over the last three seasons is Rohan Dennis, who will be riding for Jumbo (potentially at the Vuelta) in 2022.
    • Contenders from smaller and less dominant teams will be absolutely buried by this stage while members of bigger teams like Jumbo and Ineos will essentially start the race with free time over their rival. This dynamic is part of the reason the event has been phased out in recent seasons.
    • If the Slovenian star decides to race, an interesting wrinkle will be Tadej Pogačar’s UAE team. While they’ve raised their TTT potential ceiling with the off-season acquisition of João Almeida, they historically have not possessed the organizational rigidity needed to excel at the discipline. In fact, the last time a TTT was featured at a grand tour during the 2019 Vuelta, Pogačar and his team finished second-to-last and ceded over a minute on a much shorter course. If they continue to struggle in 2022, the time they potentially give up before the race starts will place a handicap on the two-time Tour champion and add significant intrigue to the race.


    Can the UAE team ride a good TTT?

    2) The raw number of summit finishes, eight, is stunningly high. Additionally, the race doesn’t feature a single finish on a true descent.

    • This course is almost custom-made for defending champion Primož Roglič to rack up his fourth-consecutive victory, and I’d have to guess that went into consideration for the route planning. Luring one of the sport’s top riders back to attempt to tie the record for most overall wins would be a big get for la Vuelta and allow it to put even more room between it and the Giro d’Italia as the sport’s second most important grand tour.
    • The difficulty of the summit finishes are brutal and are likely to turn the finale of each mountain stage into a power-to-weight focused time trial, which will lend a massive advantage to Roglič and give him a major leg up in his quest for his fourth consecutive title.


    Time trial stages 1 and 10

    3) This will be sold as a climbers race, but the number of individual time trial kilometers, while the lowest in the last ten years, isn’t that much lower than normal, and in addition to the TTT, which will favor many of the same riders, will allow time trial specialists like Primož Roglič to build up substantial leads outside of the mountains while forcing the more climbing-focused contenders to start climbs with an effective disadvantage.

    Individual Time Trial Kilometers 2012-2022

    While the Vuelta is traditionally known as a climbers grand tour, recent years have seen it become one for more well-rounded stars like Roglič and Chirs Froome who can climb with the best and pad their leads in the time trials.

    Past Winner List & Specialty:
    2021: Primož Roglič, hybrid time trialist/climber
    2020: Primož Roglič, hybrid time trialist/climber
    2019: Primož Roglič, hybrid time trialist/climber
    2018: Simon Yates, pure climber
    2017: Chris Froome, hybrid time trialist/climber
    2016: Nairo Quintana, pure climber
    2015: Fabio Aru, pure climber
    2014: Alberto Contador, climber
    2013: Chris Horner, climber
    2012: Alberto Contador, climber


    Top Vuelta TT rider – Primož Roglič

    4) Much of the focus will be on the battle for overall classification victory, but it will be interesting to see how the sprinter/stage-hunter lineup develops in the weeks before the race.

    • The Vuelta is known as a very sprinter-unfriendly race, and with so many summit finishes, the 2022 edition is no different.
    • However, the six ‘flat’ stages and three ‘hilly’ stages without uphill finishes provide fertile ground for a fast-finisher to stack up wins.
    • When we factor in that the sprinter field will most likely be severely diminished, there could be a great reward for any fast-finishes able to suffer through the seemingly-endless uphill finishes. Compared to the hectic rat race of the Tour de France first-week sprints, this could be a very appealing option.


    ‘La Vuelta has the potential to be the best grand tour of 2022’

    5) This Vuelta has the potential to be the best grand tour of the 2022 season. The mix of an extremely punchy course and its spot at the tail-end of the calendar could combine to be a potent cocktail.

    • While the other two grand tours will be subject to either/or decision making regarding which contenders make the start, the Vuelta has the potential to feature the top contenders from both the Giro and the Tour.
    • Tadej Pogačar hinted at the fact that he might attempt the Tour-Vuelta double in 2021, but the presence of the Olympic games in between the two events made it too much of a strength. So, without the Olympics in 2022, even if Pogačar successfully defends his Tour title, it isn’t beyond belief to imagine the Slovenian will attempt the “Froome double” and attempt to win the Vuelta after winning the Tour de France.
    • This means there is a real chance we finally get a grand tour with the sport’s best collection of grand tour talent, Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz along with the top up-and-coming talent like Jonas Vingegaard, João Almeida, Remco Evenepoel all competing against each other.
    • If a start list closely resembling this does indeed pan out, it would create a can’t-miss event and strengthen the Vuelta’s resume as the sport’s most-exciting grand tour.


    Map and stages


    # Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #

     

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