There are usually fewer dull moments in the Vuelta a España than in the other two grand tours combined. The Spanish course always favours aggressive racing, and the red jersey can be won and lost on even the most docile days. However, if you’re only able to tune in for a handful of stages, make sure you catch the five listed below.
Stage 6: Benalmádena to La Zubia, 167.1km
This stage sees the riders swap the province of Málaga for that of Granada, with the serious climbing beginning for the first time. The final climb up to the finish isn’t particularly long, though with inclinations of up to 13%, it will certainly hurt. It could well be on this stage that we see the first GC riders agitating near the front of the race.
Stage 10: Real Monasterio de Santa María de Veruela to Borja, 36.7km individual time trial
There are three time trials in this year’s Vuelta. The first is a short team time trial around Jerez on the race’s first stage, with the second this 36.7km individual event coming on stage 10. With the final individual time trial on the final stage extremely short, only stage 10 offers the TT specialists an opportunity of making up significant GC time.
Stage 15: Oviedo to Lagos de Covadonga, 152.2km
Stage 15 looks pretty harmless until the agonising especial-rated ascent to the summit finish at the Lakes of Covadonga begins. This excruciating ascent is one of the most famous in recent Vuelta history, and is 12.6km long at an average gradient of 7.3%, It’s one every climber will dream of winning.
Stage 16: San Martín del Rey Aurelio to La Farrapona, Lagos de Somiedo, 160.5 km
However, it’s stage 16 that is being billed as the race’s crowning event. It’s little surprise, with five first and second category climbs packed into an incredibly short 160.5km. The racing will be frenetic, and anyone not at their best will be found out on the incessant undulations.
Stage 20: Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil to Puerto de Ancares, 185.7km
The final stage is a prologue-length individual time trial (perhaps an epilogue?), meaning the last chance the riders will have to shake up the general classification will be on the mountainous penultimate stage to Puerto de Ancares. All four of the day’s classified climbs are packed into the second half of the day’s racing, with the summit finish an especial-rated ascent. There could well be fireworks.