With more mountain stages and overall contenders than you can shake a stick at, the 80th edition of the Vuelta a Espana starts today. Whether you love it for the nine new summit finishes, the seemingly endless leg-breaking inclines, the looming GC battle or the excitement of watching a young rider step into the limelight for the very first time – make the tapas, open your favourite Spanish tipple and embrace La pasión que es La Vuelta.
Saturday 27th August: Stage 1 – Puerto Banús to Marbella, 7.4km team time trial
The peloton will cover 3,356km on its journey towards Madrid, and the first 7.4 of them take the form of an evening team time trial alongside sparkling coastal waters between the snazzy resorts of Puerto Banús and Marbella. It will be beautiful to watch with the teams arriving to the start by motor launch … I like that.
The profile is flat, but as the recent events have shown, the word technical in the stage description not only denoted narrowness, but also a variety of riding surfaces from sand to plastic matting with a finish on a beach based platform. This caused a furore and the stage will now take place without the times counting towards the individual GC.
Sunday 28th August: Stage 2 – Alhaurín de la Torre to Caminito del Rey, 158.7km, medium mountain
From a flat coastal opener, we’re straight into a decidedly lumpy parcours and the first summit finish of the race. It’s the first stage proper so expect a nervy peloton and some fierce racing before a break is allowed to get away. The cat 3 Alto de Carratraca summits with 60km to go and should reduce the peloton so that a select group arrives to battle it out at the foot of the last ascent. At 2.5km, averaging 9% and ramping up to 15% in places, the Alto de la Mesa will see some of our favourite explosive finishers put to the test.
Monday 24th August: Stage 3 – Mijas to Málaga, 158.4km, medium mountain
Holey moley it’s a sprinter’s stage! Yes, there is a cat 3 climb and the first cat 1 mountain to deal with, but they come before the halfway mark and the fast men will take any opportunity they can get at La Vuelta. There is also a tricky little ascent with 6km or so to go. It smells of breakaway opportunity and will test the sprint teams’ desire for a bunch gallop to the limit. However, there’s enough time to organise the chase and even the loop back onto themselves they have to negotiate before the final kilometre shouldn’t deny a sprint finish along streets of Malaga.
Link: Official race website
Header image: Puerto Banús – by Krissy Tower, via Flickr