VUELTA’18: PEZ Looks At The Route!
Route Preview: Unipublic, the organizers of the third Grand Tour of the season, La Vuelta a España, announced the route for the 2018 edition back in January. Our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, had a close look at the Spanish ruta for the low-down ahead of this Saturday’s start in Malaga.
The Vuelta route presentation
Vuelta a España General Manager Javier Guillén, describes the 2018 race thus:
- “The explosive high-altitude finales, the unprecedented departures and finish-lines… All of that allows us to accompany the spectator as he discovers the territory. And that truly fascinates us. This year, Les Praeres in Nava and the Balcón de Bizkaia prepare to shine for 190 countries worldwide.
Our first brushstroke will take place on the 25th of August in Malaga’s Pompidou Centre, a symbol of culture, art and modernity. We will continue our collage through Andalusia, Murcia and Castilla-La Mancha. We will draw Castilla y León: in La Covatilla and La Camperona we will take our brushstroke upwards until we reach Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria. Vuelta Territory. The wind that blows at Estaca de Bares will take us to the Basque Country before the final leg in Andorra, where La Gallina will surely take its toll on all the riders. Three emotion-packed weeks. A shared passion that has been pushing us for the past 40 years and an enthusiasm that continues to inspire us, just as it did on the very first day.”
Who will celebrate in Madrid on September the 16th? – Not Chris Froome
The 2018 Route
In 2017 the Vuelta started in Nîmes, France and although the weather was warm, it won’t compare to the temperatures in Málaga on the Costa del Sol, in August – it will be murderous. In 2006 the Spanish Grand Tour started in Málaga with a 7.3 kilometer team time trial during a heatwave, although the Sevilla start of 2010 was run of in 42ºC.
Temperatures apart, what does the depart look like?
TT stage 1
Stage 1 is an 8 kilometer individual time trial, no team test in 2018. The official departure will be the Spanish tour’s 30th visit to the city of Málaga. The first time in 1936, during La Vuelta’s second edition, where it hosted both a finish and a start. The flat stage will start at the Málaga Pompidou Centre, Ex rider and race director, Fernando Escartín describes the stage: “La Vuelta will commence with an individual time trial for the first time in 9 years. Its route, featuring a small slope will, in theory, only serve to name the first leader of the general classification. Differences will be minimal between the 176 riders.”
On Stage 2 the peloton will leave the sea behind and head towards the mountains and the nature area of Caminito del Rey. Its steep slopes that wind between the peaks of the Malaga mountain range crowned Colombian rider, Esteban Chaves, in 2015 who, not only won the stage, but also wore the leaders jersey. It will be the first high-altitude finale for La Vuelta 2018. Escartín: “The toughest riders who wish to fight for La Roja will have to start making themselves known. The finale will allow a climber to win the stage, just like Esteban Chaves did in 2015. With regards to the general classification, there will be no major differences and the peloton may well make it to the start of the climb as one big group.”
Stage 3 is a mid mountain stage, but it could favor the sprinters. The day’s only mountain pass, a 1st category climb, is located at the start of the stage, which should not break up the race too much. The next day, Stage 4 is a different story with the tough Cat 1 climb of the Puerto de la Cabra half way through the stage, then the summit finish in Alfacar should cause the GC men to fight it out. The Vuelta won’t be won, but could be lost on this stage.
Stage 5 is classed as mid mountain with a route that could offer an opportunity for the sprinters. The 2nd category climb, located 30km before the finish-line, will break up the peloton and could result in 70-80 riders finishing together. Stage 6 is for the sprinters, although there are two 3rd category climbs. The San Javier area is a very windy territory, although this may not necessarily be an issue in August. However, high temperatures may pose a problem.
Stages 7 and 8 see the possibility of sprint finishes, neither stage is flat with three categorized climbs. Not for a true sprinter, but would suit a Sagan type of rider.
Stages to suit the Valverde and Sagan type riders
Stage 9 will be one of the important stages on the 2018 Vuelta a España. A Cat 1, Cat 2 and Special Cat summit finish on La Covatilla. Fernando Escartín: “La Covatilla will be one of the first stages marked in the calendar of the general classification favorites. It is a long stage, just before a rest day, where climbers will have to give it their all in order to increase the time differences and to gain a certain advantage over the time-trial specialists.”
Contador will be missed on a stage like this
The first Rest Day on Monday the 3rd of September is followed by a sprinters Stage 10 from Salamanca to Fermoselle, Bermillo de Sayago.
The longest stage of the 2018 Vuelta; Stage 11 could see a successful break go all the way to the line in Ribeira Sacra as it did in 2016. Three 3rd category climbs and one 2nd category climb.
Simon Yates won here in 2016
A deceiving Stage 12. The rugged Galician territory could benefit a tough rider in a break away, or if the race takes it easy there could be a bunch sprint.
Stages 13, 14 and 15 will be three hard day in Asturias that could crack the race wide open. Stage 13 features an extremely tough finale that will make a difference to the general classification. Before climbing La Camperona, the peloton will have to overcome another mountain pass, Puerto de Tarna (km 105,5), which will whittle down the riders in the lead. Attempts to escape are likely, though the strongest teams will work hard to neutralize them. Stage 14, Escartín: “Second day of the Asturias-Leon triptych, much to the delight of climbers. Once again, the winding terrain will favor escapes, which will again make the teams work hard to protect their leaders. The stage will end in Praeres de Nava, a very demanding mountain pass, with slopes of up to 15%.”
Stage 15 has one of the toughest profiles for the peloton, with an accumulated climbing of over 4000 meters. The stage ends at one of our country’s most iconic cycling finish-lines. The Lagos de Covadonga will determine which group will decide the race after climbing the Fito Viewpoint twice.
The mythical Lagos de Covadonga
The second Rest Day on Monday the 10th of September comes before the 32.7 kilometer individual time trail Stage 16. The terrain will be perfect for the time trial specialists – Flat and fast.
A rider like Ilnur Zakarin could lose time on stage 16
Stage 17 has a tough finalé, with the finish-line on Mount Oiz with its slopes of up to 17% and 18%. Anyone who has not recovered from the TT will suffer.
If there are any sprinters left in the race by Stage 18, this is for them.
Matteo Trentin was the man for the sprints in 2017
Stage 19 climbs from the start all the way to Andorra, but the final 17 kilometers climb over 1,000 meters. Attempts to escape are expected, although leaders will not allow big differences to happen as their minds will be on the next day’s stage.
The 2018 Vuelta a España final result could come down to Stage 20 on the penultimate day. Short but a very tough stage, with almost 4000 meters of climbing in 105 kilometers. The peloton will climb La Comella, Beixalis, Ordino, Beixalis, La Comella again and La Gallina. If the race leader is in trouble, he may lose La Vuelta.
All down to the second last stage
The final Stage 21 in Madrid is always for the race leader, but like last year it could decide the points jersey. A fast day once the peloton hit the City Center, but with the celebrations thrown in.
Stage 21 in Madrid
More details on the race website: www.lavuelta.com
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