2022 Vuelta a España Stage Analysis

With the Vuelta starting next Friday, it’s time to look at the stages. As most of you will know, the Vuelta is totally different to the other grand tours, mainly due to its position in the calendar. The race is very chilled, it doesn’t have the same level of nerves as the Giro and Tour, and the route is distinctly Spanish. This year the race starts in the Netherlands, spending three days before heading to the Basque Country. It then stays in the north for six stages before heading down to the south for eight stages, hopefully the heatwave will be over by that point. The race then finishes with four stages in the centre of Spain.

Stage 1

The race begins with a 23.4km TTT in Utrecht. It’s pan flat and a day that Jumbo-Visma will have marked as a big goal, taking the race lead on home soil would mean a lot. 

Stage 2

The second stage also finishes in Utrecht, and it is likely to be a big sprint, only the wind can stop this from happening. The previous stage will have already created some gaps on GC, which settles the nerves of the bunch and normally means we don’t see the horrible crashes which dog the opening week of the Tour and Giro.

Stage 3

The final stage in the Netherlands will be a worry for the GC riders, it is very exposed to the elements. If the wind plays ball, this will be a crazy stage, but if conditions are calm, it’s a straightforward sprint stage. A rest day follows to allow the peloton to head to Spain.

Stage 4

We are in the Basque Country and that means hills, goodbye the flatlands of northern Europe. The finale will be too hard for the sprinters, but perfect for the puncheurs, especially as the final kilometre averages 8%. As usual in this part of the world, the numbers don’t do the climbs justice, they’re always harder than they seem. The finish isn’t just good for puncheurs, it’s a day where a fast-finishing GC rider could take the win.

Stage 5

This stage finishes in Bilbao and will see amazing crowds on the side of the road. There is a lap circuit at the end of the stage, which features a very demanding little climb. I’m talking about 4.4km at 8.1%, which crests 14km from home. This could be the first stage for the breakaway.

Stage 6

The race leaves the Basque Country and heads for Cantabria and the first mountaintop finish in the race. The climb of Pico Jano is a new one for me, it’s 12.5km at 6.6%, so not the hardest climb in the race, but it’s still an important day for the GC riders. 

Stage 7

A big day for the breakaway as this one is certain to go all the way. There is a big cat 1 climb in the middle of the stage, which is far too hard for the fast men. This could be a chance for someone to take the red jersey.

Stage 8

No offense to stage 6, but this is the first proper mountain finish in the race. Colláu Fancuaya is 10.1km at 7.7%, but it is harder than the numbers suggest. This is a big day in the fight for the red jersey.

Stage 9

Another huge day, with the finish on Alto Les Praeres. This climb was used for the first time back in 2018, when Simon Yates took a brilliant win. The hill is a wall, almost 4km at 13%, perfect for the muro specialists. It’s the final day up north, expect a big GC battle with the rest day to follow.

Stage 10

The second week kicks off with a 31km time trial. It’s a day for the specialists, with much of the route going downhill.

Stage 11

It’s been a while since the sprinters had some fun, so they’ll be delighted to see this one. 

Stage 12

A day spent on the southern coast of the Costa del Sol before the climb of Peñas Blancas. The climb is long and demanding, 19km at 6.3%, which will test the legs of the best climbers. Leo König took an epic win here back in 2013, a huge day for Team NetApp – Endura.

Stage 13

Another crumb for the sprinters to fight over, but they won’t be best pleased when they find out the final 800m averages 5%. 

Stage 14

We are now in Sierra Nevada Mountain range and the climb of Sierra de La Pandera is well known to the race. It’s another long climb, this time around 20km but it does have a flat section in the middle. The final 4km averages around 8.5%, so it’s hard enough to get some gaps between the top climbers.

Stage 15

Another day and another big mountaintop finish. This time it’s the climb of Sierra Nevada, going up to the observatory. The organisers had a request denied to finish even higher up the mountain, so the climb stops just below 2500m above sea level. Miguel Ángel López won here in 2017, it suits those who perform well at altitude. The final rest day follows, so expect everyone to take a swing.

Stage 16

Another day the sprinters will be a little worried about the finish. There are two kickers in the final 15km, the quick men will need to be climbing well if they want to win this one.

Stage 17

Too hard for the sprinters, not hard enough for the GC men, it’s a day for the breakaway. So deep into the race, we’ll have to see who’s got the legs to win this one.

Stage 18

The stage finishes with Alto del Piornal, which is a disappointing 13.2km at 5.5%. The gradient simply isn’t hard enough to cause gaps between the best climbers.

Stage 19

Just 138km in length, the GC position will determine the type of stage we get. The stage is a big lap, which is done twice. It features a climb of 9km at 5.6%, but the length of the stage could see big GC attacks. Hopefully the fight for red is still close, otherwise this is another day for the break.

Stage 20

We’re just to the north of Madrid and the final mountain stages features almost 4000m of climbing. It might lack a huge mountain, but there’s enough here to make a brilliant stage. 

Stage 21

The race ends with the traditional finish in Madrid. 

Thoughts

I like the route; it offers opportunities for all types of riders. On first inspection, the final week disappointed me, but the more I look at it, the more I like it. If the GC battle is still close, both stages 19 and 20 offer “ambush” opportunities. With doubts surrounding the participation of Roglič, it opens the door to the other GC riders. Simon Yates is the only previous winner who has a realistic chance of winning red, there is a big chance for someone to win the Vuelta for the first time, which will only add to the excitement levels.

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