Ruta del Sol 2018: Everything you need to know about Chris Froome's return to racing

Full details of the Ruta del Sol 2018 including route, start list, TV guide, and favourites

The peloton on stage four of the 2017 Volta a Catalunya
(Image credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

The Ruta del Sol 2018 (February 14-18), otherwise known as the Vuelta a Andalucia, will see Chris Froome return to racing for the first time since news of his adverse analytical finding broke at the 2017 Vuelta a España broke in mid-December.

Froome has ridden the Ruta del Sol on two occasions in the past, finishing in 50th place while working as a domestique in 2011, before returning in 2015 when he won the race overall ahead by just two seconds ahead of Alberto Contador.

On that occasion Froome's victory was secured with a dominant performance on the summit finish to Alto de Allanadas, a climb that returns to the race in 2018 at the end of stage two and could prove to be the decisive moment of the event as the only proper summit finish.

Stage four sees another uphill finish to hilltop town of Alcalá de los Gazules, however this is less than half the length of the 5.5km Alto de Allanadas and should see smaller time gaps.

The final race winner should be decided on the final time trial, which is 14.2km in length and generally flat with a start and finish in the coastal town of Barbate.

The Ruta del Sol was first held in 1925, before not returning to the cycling calendar until 1955. Since then it has been held every year apart from 1978, with Alejandro Valverde winning the race for five of the last six years. The event is a 2.1 category race and part of the UCI Europe Tour.

Why is Chris Froome allowed to race in the Ruta del Sol?

While some figures including Vincenzo Nibali and UCI president David Lappartient have called on Team Sky to voluntarily suspend Froome from racing while he is under investigation for an adverse analytical finding at the 2017 Vuelta a España, Froome is perfectly entitled to take to the start line in southern Spain.

This is due to the nature of the substance which Froome was found to have twice the permitted concentration of in his urine in a test conducted after stage 17 of the 2017 Vuelta.

>>> Everything you need to know about Chris Froome's salbutamol case

Salbutamol is not classified as a "specified substance" by the World Anti-Doping Agency, meaning that Froome is not subject to a provisional suspension which would have seen him suspended from riding while the investigation was ongoing.

Instead Froome, who denies breaking anti-doping rules which allow athletes to take a maximum of 800mg of salbutamol per 12 hours, and, with Team Sky’s backing, has vowed to clear his name, will continue his preparation for the Giro d'Italia as normal. However if he is found to have broken the rules, then it is likely that any ban will see his results at the Ruta del Sol wiped out.

Ruta del Sol 2018 route

Stage one, February 14: Mijas to Granada, 197.6km

altimetria stage one ruta del sol

The opening stage of the Ruta del Sol features six classified climbs including a rude start to affairs with a second-category climb crested just 9.4km after the flag drops. The repeated climbs should be enough to drop any pure sprinters foolish enough to enter this hilly race, but we should still see a bunch sprint on the flat finish in Granada.

Stage two, February 15: Otura to La Guarda de Jaén (Alto de Allanadas), 140km

altimetria stage two ruta del sol

The toughest summit finish of the race, the Alto de Allanadas returns to the Ruta del Sol for the first time since 2015 when Chris Froome used it to set up overall victory. The climb may only be 5.5km in length, but features some brutally steep gradients on a narrow road, hitting 21 per cent halfway up and averaging 12 per cent for much of the final two kilometres.

Stage three, February 16: Mancha Real to Herrera, 166.1km

altimetria stage three ruta del sol

The only real flat road stage of the Ruta del Sol, stage three should see a relaxed day for the GC riders as the makes its way along wide roads towards a seemingly inevitable bunch sprint in Herrera. However with exposed roads for much of the day there is always the chance for crosswinds, especially if the wind blows from the south.

Stage four, February 17: Sevilla to Alcalá de los Gazules, 194.7km

altimetria stage four ruta del sol

The hilltop town of Alcalá de los Gazules presents the riders with a punchy summit finish with more double digit gradients to get their teeth into. At less than two kilometres in length this stage does not offer as much opportunity for forcing gaps as stage two, but will still see action regardless of the state of the GC.

Stage five, February 18: Barbate to Barbate, 14.2km (ITT)

altimetria stage five ruta del sol

The coastal town of Barbate is pretty much as far south as it's possible to get in mainland Spain, with the town playing host to the 14.2km time trial that will decide the race winner. The profile may look flat, but it tops out at around 150m from the start at sea level, meaning an uphill start to the stage and fast if untechnical descent back towards the finish.

Ruta del Sol 2018 stages

StageDateStart/finishDistance
Stage oneWednesday, Feb 14Mijas to Granada197.6km
Stage twoThursday, Feb 15Otura to La Guarda de Jaén (Alto de Allanadas)140km
Stage threeFriday, Feb 16Mancha Real to Herrera166.1km
Stage fourSaturday, Feb 17Sevilla to Alcalá de los Gazules194.7km
Stage fiveSunday, Feb 18Barbate to Barbate14.2km (ITT)

Ruta del Sol 2018 live TV guide

The 2018 Ruta del Sol will be shown live on Eurosport in the UK, although full details of the day-by-day TV coverage are still to be announced.

In 2017, the Ruta del Sol received an hour of live television coverage each day on Eurosport 1, generally starting around 15.00. There was also the chance to catch up with an hour of highlights broadcast on the evening of each stage as well as the following morning

Ruta del Sol 2018 favourites

The start list is still to be confirmed (see below), but a number of big riders have announced that they will be heading to the Ruta del Sol.

Alongside Froome, defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is one of the major favourites, especially having won the overall and two stages at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in early February. Valverde should also be joined on the Movistar team by Mikel Landa, who was a key domestique in Froome's Tour de France triumph last July but has since left Team Sky for the Spanish squad.

Another WorldTour team with multiple options for the overall is Astana, who should come with both Luis Leon Sanchez and Jakob Fuglsang in their squad who finished second and third respectively behind Valverde at Valenciana. Other GC contenders could include Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Amaro Manuel Antunes (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), and Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).

Ruta del Sol 2018 start list (to be confirmed)

Movistar (Esp)

VALVERDE Alejandro

LANDA Mikel

Ag2r La Mondiale (Fra)

BAGDONAS Gediminas

DILLIER Silvan

DUVAL Julien

GOUGEARD Alexis

NAESEN Oliver

VENTURINI Clément

Astana (Kaz)

FUGLSANG Jakob

CHERNETCKII Sergei

GATTO Oscar

KOZHATAYEV Bakhtiyar

MOSER Moreno

SANCHEZ Luis Leon

VALGREN Michael

EF Education First-Drapac (USA)

LANGEVELD Sebastian

VANMARCKE Sep

Lotto Soudal (Bel)

BAK Lars Ytting

HOFLAND Moreno

MONFORT Maxime

WELLENS Tim

MARCZYNSKI Tomasz

VAN DER SANDE Tosh

VANENDERT Jelle

LottoNL-Jumbo (Ned)

KRUIJSWIJK Steven

BATTAGLIN Enrico

BOUWMAN Koen

CLEMENT Stef

EENKHOORN Pascal

DE TIER Floris

WYNANTS Maarten

Team Sky (GBr)

DE LA CRUZ David

POELS Wout

FROOME Christopher

Burgos-BH (Esp)

MENDES José

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA (Esp)

SCHULTZ Nick

CCC Sprandi Polkowice (Pol)

ANTUNES Amaro Manuel

GRADEK Kamil

KOCH Jonas

KUMP Marko

OWSIAN Lukasz

CHLEGEL Michal

TRATNIK Jan

Cofidis (Fra)

Delko Marseille-Provence KTM (Fra)

MORENO Javier

FERNANDEZ Delio

JONES Brenton

KASPERKIEWICZ Przemys

MIHAYLOV Nikolay

SMUKULIS Gatis

TRARIEUX Julien

Direct Energie (Fra)

TAARAMÄE Rein

BOUDAT Thomas

COUSIN Jérôme

GAUDIN Damien

GRELLIER Fabien

PETIT Adrien

SICARD Romain

Euskadi-Murias (Bel)

BIZKARRA Mikel

LOUBET Julien

ABERASTURI Jon

PRADES Eduard

SAEZ Héctor

SANZ Enrique

BRAVO Garikoitz

Gazprom-RusVelo (Rus)

ARSLANOV Ildar

FIRSANOV Sergey

FOLIFOROV Alexander

KOZONCHUK Dmitry

LAGUTIN Sergey

SHALUNOV Evgeny

NYCH Artem

Israel Cycling Academy (Isr)

HERMANS Ben

Rally Cycling (USA)

ANDERSON Ryan

BRITTON Rob

DAL-CIN Matteo

DE VOS Adam

HUFFMAN Evan

JOYCE Colin

ORONTE Emerson

Sport Vlaanderen- Baloise (Bel)

NOPPE Christophe

PLANCKAERT Edward

RICKAERT Jonas

SPRENGERS Thomas

VAN GESTEL Dries

VAN Yarne

VAN HECKE Preben

VERWILST Aaron

Wanty-Groupe Gobert (Bel)

MARTIN Guillaume

BAUGNIES Jerome

DEGAND Thomas

DOUBEY Fabien

MINNAARD Marco

PASQUALON Andrea

VAN MELSEN Kevin

Vérandas Willems-Crelan (Bel)

GOOLAERTS Michael

WAEYTENS Zico

DE BIE Sean

DEVOLDER Stijn

DUIJN Huub

KRUOPIS Aidis

TANNER David

Ruta del Sol: last year's top 10 (2017)

1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 17-12-33

2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 1 sec

3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 6 secs

4. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 21 secs

5. Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky, at 45 secs

6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 48 secs

7. Sebastien Reichenbach (Sui) FDJ, at 52 secs

8. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 1-29

9. Ondrej Cink (Cze) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-48

10. Javier Moreno (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-50

Ruta del Sol recent winners

2017 Alejandro Valverde

2016 Alejandro Valverde

2015 Chris Froome

2014 Alejandro Valverde

2013 Alejandro Valverde

2012 Alejandro Valverde

2011 Markel Irizar

2010 Michael Rogers

2009 Joost Posthuma

2008 Pablo Lastras