The Vuelta a España is the final Grand Tour of the year, taking place between August 19 and September 11 in 2022.
Comprised of 21 stages, the upcoming Spanish race returns to the capital city of Madrid, following a final-day visit to Santiago de Compostela in 2021.
The 77th edition of the race will start in the Dutch city of Utrecht, where the race was meant to start in 2020, before being reigned in to 18 stages within Spain due to the pandemic. The 2021 edition also stayed within the Spanish borders for similar reasons.
The first three stages around the Netherlands have already been confirmed with a rare appearance for the team time trial around the city, then a stage from Hertogenbosch back to Utrecht in a likely sprint before a stage starting and finishing in Breda.
After the rest day, where the peloton will travel to Spain, the racing will recommence in the Basque Country. The first summit finish won't come until stage six, though, with the day ending up Pico Jano in the Cantabria region. Two brutal climbs await thereafter, as the Vuelta heads into Asturias. The brand new Colláu Fancuaya will feature on stage eight.
The second week sees the race start in the south of the country, with an individual time trial of over 30km between Elche and Alicante.
After that comes a brief visit to retiring Alejandro Valverde's home of Murcia, as the peloton makes its way to the savage head of Andalusia and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, including the mountain itself. Riders will have to contend with altitudes of well over 2000 metres here, with the Peñas Blancas and La Pandera also making appearances.
The final week includes climbing in the Extramadura, with two more high-altitude summit finishes. In total, there are eight summit finishes across the 21 stages.
To conclude, the 2022 Vuelta heads back to the capital of Madrid, returning to the usual laps around the city centre before a battle to line for the remaining sprinters, as the overall winner is crowned. after last year ending in Santiago de Compostela. The Vuelta returns to the usual laps around the city centre with a mad dash to the line for the remaining sprinters and a crowning of the overall winner.
Vuelta a España 2022 route
|Stage one||Utrecht to Utrecht||23.3km TTT|
|Stage two||Hertogenbosch to Utrecht||175.1km flat|
|Stage three||Breda to Breda||193.2km flat|
|Rest day||Row 3 - Cell 1||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|Stage four||Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia||153.5km hilly|
|Stage five||Irun to Bilbao||187km hilly|
|Stage six||Bilbao to Pico Jano||180km mountains|
|Stage seven||Camargo to Cistierna||190.1km hilly|
|Stage eight||Pola de Laviana to Colláu Fancuay||154.5km mountains|
|Stage nine||Villaviciosa to Les Praeres||175.5km mountains|
|Rest day||Row 10 - Cell 1||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|Stage ten||Elche to Alicante||31.1km ITT|
|Stage 11||ElPozo Alimentación to Cabo de Gata||193km flat|
|Stage 12||Salobreña to Peñas Blancas||195.5km mountains|
|Stage 13||Ronda to Montilla||171km flat|
|Stage 14||Montoro to Sierra de La Pandera||160.3km mountains|
|Stage 15||Martos to Sierra Nevada||148.1km mountains|
|Rest day||Row 17 - Cell 1||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|Stage 16||Sanlúcar de Barrameda to Tomares||188.9km flat|
|Stage 17||Aracena to Monasterio de Tentudía||160km hilly|
|Stage 18||Trujillo to Alto de Piorna||191.7km mountains|
|Stage 19||Talavera de la Reina to Talavera de la Reina||132.7km hilly|
|Stage 20||Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada||175.5km mountains|
|Stage 21||Las Rozas to Madrid||100.5km flat|
Vuelta a España 2022 stages
Stage one - Utrecht to Utrecht (23.3km TTT)
Two plague-riddled years later than planned, the Vuelta comes to Utrecht, which becomes the first ever city to host foreign stages of all three Grand Tours. And for fans of identically-dressed cyclists riding perfectly in motion, it’s going to be a beautiful one, as it's a team time trial stage, the first to feature in any Grand Tour since 2019.
Rohan Dennis broke the record for the fastest ever Tour de France time trial when Utrecht hosted the 2015 Grand Depart, and the pan flat, not especially technical route today will make for a similarly quick course. GC teams that have packed their rosters with climbing domestiques at the expense of heavier rouleurs will therefore be at a significant disadvantage, and could find this stage costly — at almost twice the length of the last team time trials to feature at the Vuelta, the least equipped GC teams will likely lose over a minute.
Stage two - Hertogenbosch to Utrecht (175.1km)
Look out from the top of the mediaeval Dom Tower that dominates the Utrecht skyline, and you’ll see nether hills, nor (save for the Rabobank Tower office block, HQ of the bank that used to sponsor the team that’s now Jumbo-Visma) tall buildings on the horizon. The terrain here is as flat as it gets, and therefore perfect for the sprinters.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a straightforward stage though. The Netherlands might be a haven for cycling commuters, but the copious road furniture can make racing on it a nightmare to race on — as was the case when the Giro d’Italia visited in 2010, when multiple riders went down in crashes, including the ultimate winner of the stage, Tyler Farrar. With crosswinds also a possibility, some top GC favourites may already see their hopes come to a premature end.
Stage three - Breda to Breda (193.2km)
The last stage before a rest day and a transfer over to Spain is another flat one for the sprinters, this time starting and finishing in Breda, where Andre Greipel won a sprint at the 2015 Eneco Tour. A fortified city with a significant history as a military stronghold, Breda also used to host an annual Redhead day parade — so maybe it’s one for, say, Alessandro De Marchi or Steven Kruijswijk to get into the break.
Although (barring crashes) there’s nothing here to affect the GC, there could still be a new overall leader at the end of the day. The team time trial means a number of riders will be joint on time at the top of GC, so the red jersey could change hands within the same team on countback; or, alternatively, a sprinter might be able to accumulate enough bonus seconds from yesterday and today’s finishes to take it.
Stage four - Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia (153.5km)
Orange will still be the predominant colour of fans on the roadside as the race reaches mainland Spain but this time of the Basque variant rather than Dutch.
The terrain here in the Basque Country is not only good for wine-growing (the relatively high altitude and chalky clay and limestone soil help keep temperatures cool and give the local Rioja Alavesa its celebrated flavour), but also for racing, with the final two thirds of the stage taking place over rolling roads.
It’s not enough to draw out the GC contenders, but a variety of intriguing scenarios could play out in the race for the stage win. Is this one for a strong break to make it to the finish? Could the category three Puerto de Herrera 16km from the line provide a launchpad for a race-winning move? Or will a reduced bunch contest a sprint on the draggy uphill at the finish in Laguardia?
Stage five - Irun to Bilbao (187km)
The striking metallic contours of the landmark Guggenheim Museum that awaits the riders at today’s finishing destination of Bilbao bares a passing resemblance to the stage profile, which is shaped by the hilly terrain of the Basque Country. There are five climbs packed into the final 100km, the decisive one likely to be the double-ascent of the 4.7km, 7.7% averaging Alto del Vivero, which is crested the second time just 14km from the finish.
The same finale was used for stage 12 of the 2016 Vuelta, which ended in a reduced bunch sprint of about 40 riders won by Belgian Jens Keukeleire, but not before multiple riders — including Alberto Contador — had attacked on the Alto del Vivero. This time, there’s a great intensity of climbing prior to the finale, which will play in the favour of those hoping to break clear from the bunch — and possibly encourage GC candidates to have a go.
Stage six - Bilbao to Ascensión al Pico Jano (180km)
Given how the organisers of the Vuelta love nothing more than a summit finish, it must have taken some restraint to wait until the sixth stage to include the first one in this year’s edition. This is the first road stage that guarantees the overall contenders will come to the fore, and a clear hierarchy of them will start to form, with those lacking the form or fitness likely to be dropped on the climatic ascent of Pico Jano.
Pico Jano is a new climb for the Vuelta, and it looks like a tough one. Unlike the kind often used at the Vuelta, it’s long (13km) and steady rather than short and steep, but its average gradient of over 6%, and double digits near the top, will still be enough to cause damage. Coming after the category one Collada de Brenes, it caps off a bonafide GC stage in the Cantabrian mountains.
Stage seven - Camargo to Cistierna (190.1km)
This stage has one of the more unusual parcours of the race. There’s only one climb, the category one Puerto San Glorio, but it’s a really hard one; the longest of the Vuelta so far, lasting over 20km.
How the stage unfolds will depend upon how riders choose to approach this climb. Given that it's followed by a 64km plateau through the Riaño and Mampodre Mountain Regional Park to the finish in Cistierna, there might be a reluctance for anyone to either attack on it, or make the effort to bring back the day’s break.
Alternatively, fast-finishing all-rounders might be tempted to have their teams set a fast tempo on it to drop the pure sprinters, and maintain a fast pace after to ensure they don’t re-join — even if it risks attracting the ire of the rest of the peloton, who’ll be longing for an easy day given what awaits them during the weekend.
Stage eight - La Pola Llaviana to Colláu Fancuaya (154.5km)
We’re in Asturias for part one of a mountainous weekend double-header, consisting of the two hardest stages of the race so far. The road tilts upwards right from the flag for the category two Alto de la Colladona, and there are three more similarly tough climbs to conquer before the final rise to Colláu Fancuaya.
As the hardest of the five ascents, and coming after 45km of relatively easy undulating valley roads, this stage is all about the Colláu Fancuaya. It’s another unknown entity as a mountain making its Vuelta debut, and anyone serious about winning the Vuelta will probably want to recon it beforehand. The 10.5km effort averages just under 8%, but riders must be careful not to go into the red and leave something in the tank for the final 2.5km, where the steepest double-digit ramps await. The time gaps between the GC favourites will be substantial.
Stage nine - Villaviciosa to Les Praeres (175.5km)
Another day, another summit finish for the pure climbers to gain time prior to the long time trial that awaits the other side of tomorrow’s rest day. Like yesterday, the first four climbs of the day are mere appetisers for the final effort of Les Praeres, but this category one, narrow farm track that concludes the stage is more of a wall than a mountain, lasting just 4km but averaging a lethal gradient of over 12%.
The steepness of these slopes, especially towards the top, ensures that there will be gaps between the favourites, but it’s not long enough for them to be especially big; as was the case when the climb first featured in 2018, where riders arrived in ones and twos but 13 finished within a minute of the winner. But note who that winner was: Simon Yates, who in the process reclaimed the red jersey that he’d successfully defend during the final week.
Stage 10 - Elche to Alicante (31.1km ITT)
A rest day transfer takes the Vuelta across the length of the country to Elche, home of sportswear company Kelme, which sponsored the old team that Roberto Heras won the first of his four Vuelta titles with in 2000. That’s the record Primož Roglič is aiming to break this year, and it’s on this time trial stage that he’d hope to lay the foundations to do so.
The Slovenian has won the time trials in each of his three red jersey-winning appearances between 2019-2021, and if anything, this route is even more conducive to him and other specialists against the clock looking to maximise their advantage over the pure climbers. It’s almost entirely flat, not technical, and potentially poses the threat of strong winds during the second half from the Levante coast. GC contenders weak against the clock are at risk of losing minutes.
Stage 11 - ElPozo Alimentación to Cabo de Gata (193km)
At long last, the sprinters have another day where a bunch finish is odds on. Aside from a few uncategorised undulations on the road midway into the stage, there’s nothing in the terrain to trouble them, and the breakaway should be relatively easy to control.
The one factor that could complicate matters is the weather. Now the race is in the south of Spain, the riders may be exposed to the searing temperatures that can occur here during the summer. Upon setting off from the Region of Murcia (where local favourite Alejandro Valverde can expect a rousing send-off in what is the last race of his long career), the riders head towards Cabo de Gata, known as being the driest area in the country. A sea breeze from the Almerían coastline during the stage’s second half could on one hand help cool them down, or, if strong, potentially add more peril by threatening echelons.
Stage 12 - Salobreña to Peñas Blancas (195.5km)
Rather than set the finish somewhere along the Costa del Sol coastline the riders will spend most of the stage ambling along, the Vuelta organiser have instead cruelly opted to end them up the category one Peñas Blancas.
With an average gradient of 6%, it’s not the steepest of mountains. Consequently, the gaps weren’t especially big the last time a Vuelta stage finished here in 2013, when 15 riders finished within 30 seconds of stage winner Leopold Konig (who delivered the team now known as Bora-Hansgrohe their first ever Grand Tour stage victory), among them Nicolas Roche, who took the red jersey that day. This time, though, the organisers have found an extra 4km to extend the climb to 20m. Any GC contenders who lost a chunk of time in the time trial will need to take every available opportunity to gain time, so attacks from the bottom, where the gradients are steepest, are possible.
Stage 13 - Ronda to Montilla (171km)
The dramatic gorge at the centre of Ronda, in addition to its beautiful architecture and bullfighting tradition, has made the town a significant inspiration for two of the 20th century’s greatest American storytellers — Ernest Hemmingway whose classic For Whom the Bell Tolls references a harrowing massacre that occurred here during the Spanish Civil War; and Citizen Kane director Orson Welles, whose ashes are buried here.
The route designed by the organisers today upon setting off from Ronda isn’t quite worthy of their output, but there could be intrigue in the battle between the break and the peloton. Although there are no categorised climbs, the terrain is undulating, and breakaways are harder to control this deep into a Grand Tour. If this is to be a bunch sprint, there will need to be teams motivated enough to control the race, and believe that their sprinter can triumph on the draggy uphill to the finish line.
Stage 14 - Montoro to Sierra de la Pandera (160.3km)
For the second successive weekend the Vuelta treats us to a double bill of mountain stages, and this time the climbs are even harder.
The finish of today’s first leg, La Pandera, has featured five times in the past twenty editions, with Alejandro Valverde and, most recently, Rafal Majka among the illustrious list of former winners. The riders will already have spent most of the previous 25km climbing before its official start, upon which they’ll face 12km of narrow roads, rough surfaces and fluctuating gradients that occasionally ramp up into the double digits.
The lesson from recent appearances is to pace yourself: both Esteban Chaves and Alberto Contador tried attacks early in 2017, only to be eventually reeled in and dropped by Chris Froome in the red jersey before the top, while Valverde defended his overall lead in 2009 by being careful not to go into the red when he was distanced on the slower slopes.
Stage 15 - Martos to Sierra Nevada (148.1km)
The highest summit finish in Grand Tour history is in store today, in what could be the decisive climb of this year’s Vuelta. The mighty Sierra Nevada is an enormous 2,500m above sea level, and, having featured in the Vuelta at least once every decade since the 1970s, is one of the race’s most iconic, and feared, landmarks.
This time, it’s climbed via the Alto de Hazallanas, which is itself an absolute monster of an ascent, with slopes of almost 10% sustained for over 7km. Upon reaching that summit, there’s a whole additional 12km to climb (at a testing 7%) before they at last get to the top of Sierra Nevada.
This high attitude here is alone enough to exhaust the riders, and in addition to being the second mountain of the day following the category one Alto del Purche, and as the third summit finish in four days, could wreak havoc on the race.
Stage 16 - Sanlúcar de Barrameda to Tomares (188.9km)
One month after hosting its annual horse race, in which thoroughbreds have competed at sunset on the beach of the Guadalquivir River for over 150 years, Sanlúcar de Barrameda hosts racing of the two-wheeled variety. And much like the horses galloping against each other, the stage will be decided by a sprint, as the riders are eased back into racing following yesterday’s much-needed rest day with flat roads.
But how many sprinters will still be left in the race? The huge mountains of the weekend might have seen some finish outside the time limit, while others would have abandoned beforehand, assessing that the prospect of this stage and one final sprint in Madrid was not enough for them to stick around for. With that in mind, the peloton’s best rouleurs will surely seek to get into the day’s break, and have a great chance of succeeding if there aren’t enough sprinters’ teams to chase them down.
Stage 17 - Aracena to Monasterio de Tentudía (160km)
Usually the final week of a Grand Tour is where all of the most important GC stages await, but at this Vuelta, most of the hardest mountain stages will already be behind the riders by now. Nevertheless, fatigue will still be a factor this deep into a Grand Tour, and some of the highest ranked riders could be nearing breaking point, so a seemingly relatively benign stage like today’s could yet produce a late twist in the race for the red jersey.
The final climb to Monasterio de Tentudía (making its Vuelta debut) averages about 5% for 10km, but is a little steeper if you discount a short downhill section in the middle. It wouldn’t usually be the kind of climb to cause ruptures between the top favourites, but funny things can happen here in the heat of remote Badajoz region, while the constantly undulating terrain that precedes could invite a surprise ambush.
Stage 18 - Trujillo to Alto del Piornal (191.7km)
The region of Cáceres where the peloton has transferred north to for today’s stage is a remote, sparsely populated part of Spain that, unless they’re committed turophiles flocking to Trujillo for the annual cheese fair in May, most tourists wouldn’t have much reason to visit. Similarly, the Vuelta also often overlooks this area, and so the Alto de Piornal climb that is climbed twice at the climax will be something of an unknown quantity.
The riders will learn soon enough what the climb is all about. Although it only averages 5.6% the final time up, at 13km in length it’s relentless enough to have been designated a category one climb, and is sure to be selective given that they’ll have already climbed it once before via a different side, and considering how long the stage is as a whole. With only one more proper mountain stage to come, there’s sure to be an uninhibited GC battle.
Stage 19 - Talavera de la Reina to Talavera de la Reina (132.7km)
Two days before the finish in Madrid, the organisers have thrown in a stage that seems designed to potentially cause chaos. Everything about this parcours invites early attacks — at just 133km long, it’s the shortest road stage of the Vuelta, reducing the risk of burning out from long-range moves; and most of that short duration is spent either climbing or descending the Puerto de Piélago, with barely any kilometres of nullifying flat roads in between during the circuit of Talavera de la Reina.
The climb (which is tackled twice) isn’t actually that hard, averaging about 6% for the official 9km duration, and less during the long gradual rise to its base, while the 37km descent from the top of the second ascent to the finish may put off would-be attackers, particularly as it shallows towards the bottom. But for any GC riders feeling bold and with teammates to assist them, the terrain is there to detonate the race.
Stage 20 - Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada (175.5km)
Whereas virtually all of the previous stages during this final week risk being anti-climaxes, this brute held amid the Sierras of Madrid is a bonafide mountain stage that guarantees action and drama. It has five mountains in total, three of them ranked category one, and all of them peaking at over 1500m above sea level.
As an example of what might go down today, you need only look back to the penultimate day of the 2015 Vuelta, which featured the same final two climbs as today. Tom Dumoulin began the stage on the verge of taking overall victory, only to be dropped on the penultimate climb of Puerto de la Morcuera by Fabio Aru and his Astana teammates, and then further distanced on the final climb of Puerto de Cotos to plummet all the way down to sixth on GC, while Aru claimed overall victory instead. Will the GC race turn on its head again this year?
Stage 21 - Las Rozas to Madrid (100.5km)
Having experimented with a finish elsewhere last year, the Vuelta reverts to tradition with a circuit stage finale around the streets of Madrid. The GC contest will therefore already have been done and dusted, meaning the attention will instead be on the sprinters, while the GC riders relax and enjoy the end-of-term vibes that always characterise this stage.
German Pascal Ackermann was crowned winner in a photo finish from a bunch sprint here in 2020 ahead of Sam Bennett, who narrowly failed to become the fourth successive QuickStep sprinter to win here in Madrid.
One jersey that could still be in play is the green jersey for the winner of the points classification. The mountainous nature of the Vuelta prevented sprinters from winning it for seven successive years until Fabio Jakobsen triumphed last year. Any sprinter hoping to repeat his feat may be dependent on a haul of points in today’s finish.
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