The Vuelta a España 2016 route features no fewer than ten new summit finishes and a 29.4km team time trial to kick it all off
With the brutal, however, comes the sane – the race stays in Spain’s north and limits the transfers between its 21 stages.
Mas de la Costa, in the Valencian Community, follows the rest day and averages 15% for four kilometres, kicking to 22% at times.
Mirador de Ézaro (stage three) and La Camperona (stage eight) shoot towards the sky quicker. Mirador de Ézaro’s ramps of 29%, averaging 13.1 over 2km, saw some riders dismount and walk in the fourth stage of 2013. La Camperona, 7.5% over 8.3km, reaches 24%.
The 10 summit finishes of 2016: Ézaro (stage 3), San Andrés de Teixido (4), La Camperona (8), Naranco (9), Lagos (10), Peña Cabarga (11), Col d’Aubisque (14), Formigal (15), Mas de Costa (17) and Alto de Aitana (20).
Unipublic will go easy on the 22 teams after hearing complaints in 2015 of long transfers between stages and on rest days. Instead of visiting the entire Iberian Peninsula, director Javier Guillen limited the journey to Spain’s north, and by doing so created a compact route that eases stress and lowers petrol consumption. The furthest south the peloton will race is the Aitana climb at the end of stage 20.
A 29.4km team time trial will start the race on August 20 and in the third week, on the Friday before Aitana and the Sunday sprint finish in Madrid, a long individual time trial will sort the classification. The riders will tackle a 39km route along the windy coast from Jávea to Calpe.
Three-time Vuelta a España winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) – who looks set to race after a disappointing Tour de France from which he was forced to abandon with illness – gave a measured verdict on the route when it was revealed, saying: “2016 will be the toughest year to reach the Vuelta in good form. After the Tour, it will be very tough to rest because of the Olympic Games.
“It will be much more difficult, compared to previous years, to fully recover in order to start the Vuelta in top shape.
“This year’s parcours has many explosive finishes that aren’t ideal for me, in particular due to the bonus seconds.”
Vuelta a España 2016 route
Stage 1: Saturday August 20, Laias do Miño (Ourense), team time trial, 29.4km
The opening stage of the 2016 Vuelta a España is a team time trial covering 29.4km in Ourense in the north west Spain. With such a tough three weeks ahead of the riders, don’t expect to see the final GC decided here but do look at for signs of riders’ form.
Stage 2: Sunday August 21, Ourense – Baiona, 159km
Stage two takes riders to the coast at Baiona. The third category climb should come early enough for anyone who’s been dropped to get back on before the finish. If this profile featured later in the race it could have been one for a breakaway, but so early on the GC teams will aim to control everything and keep an eye on each other.
Stage 3: Monday August 22, Marin – Mirador de Ézaro (summit), 170km
It’s only the third stage and already the riders are faced with a summit finish. It may only be a third category climb but it’s short and brutally steep: start too far back and a GC rider could get caught behind the bunch when it comes to a near standstill.
Stage 4: Tuesday August 23, Betanzos – S.A de Teixido (Cedeira) (summit), 161km
Another summit finish and already those with overall aspirations might be forced to switch their focus to stage wins. By now any big name sprinters who fancied three weeks pedalling round Spain might be reconsidering their decision.
Stage 5: Wednesday August 24, Viveiro – Lugo, 170km
As the riders head back in land and towards Lugo, the majority of the altitude gain comes early enough for it to be all together by the finish line. However, a strong enough attack from a big enough group on the day’s only categorised climb could see the break staying away.
Stage 6: Thursday August 25, Monforte – Lunitra (Ribera Sacra), 163km
With an intermediate sprint positioned on a climb and at the second highest point of the stage, the Vuelta a España’s organisers have shown their intent for this year’s race.
If the preceding days have seen riders lose enough time then the GC teams might relax a bit and let an unthreatening breakaway have the glory.
Stage 7: Friday August 26, Maceda – Puebla de Sanabria, 158.3km
The Vuelta doesn’t really do transitional stages or long transfers, and this stage will finish once again in sight of Portugal’s northern border. A lumpy day that is gaining height for much of the ride until the flowing descent to the end, it could be a stressful time for domestiques.
Stage 8: Saturday August 27, Villalpando – La Camperona (summit), 177km
So very nearly a flat stage, even coming with a sprint at the end of the long drag. But then there’s a first category summit finish to contend with. This is one of the slightly longer stages on this year’s route as the riders cover 177km to La Camperona.
Stage 9: Sunday August 28, Cistierna – Naranco (Oviedo) (summit), 165km
Another summit finish, but not to the highest point on the stage. The second category climb to Naranco is almost 1000 metres nearer to sea level that than Puerto de San Isidiro which comes much earlier in the stage. The saw tooth profile of the last 55km could see someone like Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) going for a long ranger.
Stage 10: Monday August 29, Lugones – Lagos de Covadonga (summit), 188.7km
A beyond category climb immediately before a rest day has got GC ding dong battle written all over it. It also brings forward the Grand Tour cliché: the race may not be won here, but it most certainly could be lost.
With 10 stages done and a rest day to get through without getting ill or having a mishap, a time cushion over the rest of the GC will be very favourable for anyone with overall aspirations.
Rest day, Tuesday August 30
Stage 11: Wednesday August 31, Colunga. Museo Jurásico – Peña Cabarga (summit), 168.6km
That’s one hell of a sting in the tail. Flat or rolling for 160km before a near 9km climb up to a first category summit finish. The key factor here will be in what condition riders come out of the rest day; with the difference between riders often laid bare the day after.
Stage 12: Thursday September 1, Corrales de Buelna – Bilbao, 193.2km
A lumpy day with a descent into a flat finish in Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country. There should be plenty of Basque riders in the race so this could be a day for one of them to attack over the final second category climb and attempt to hold off the chasers all the way to the finish line.
Stage 13: Friday September 2, Bilbao – Urdax (Navarra), 212.8km
A couple of short trips into France are the points of interest on stage 13. Who knows what the race situation will be by this point, but this one looks like a breakaway win.
Stage 14: Saturday September 3, Urdax – Aubisque (France) (summit), 195.6km
Other than the start and the first three kilometres or so, this stage takes place across the border in France before a beyond category summit finish atop the Col d’Aubisque.
A tough day with three other – all first category – climbs, GC teams will be burning riders all day to stay in contention.
Stage 15: Sunday September 4, Sabiñanigo – Formigal (summit), 120km
A much shorter stage and another summit finish point to explosive and attacking racing from the flag. A long range attack from the intermediate sprint point all the way to the finish line would make for great viewing, so here’s hoping.
Stage 16: Monday September 5, Alcañiz – Peñicola, 158km
After several brutal stages and a rest day to look forward to this will probably be one for an escape group while the GC team domestiques nurse their leaders, and themselves, to the finish line in Peñicola.
Rest day, Tuesday September 6
Stage 17: Wednesday September 7, Castellón – Mas de la Costa (summit), 173.3km
It’s the rest day-summit finish sequence again. Someone could have what looks like an unassailable lead in the GC by now, but just one bad day on a finish like this and it could all change.
Stage 18: Thursday September 8, Requena – Gandia, 191km
The follow day’s time trial will probably cause a cagey display from the GC riders, and with others running out of time to do anything in the Vuelta this will probably be a day for the break.
Stage 19: Friday September 9, Jávea – Calpe, individual time trial, 39km
Well under an hour’s effort and with very little climbing to speak of – particularly by Vuelta standards, riders like Froome and Contador will benefit from a time trial like this while we’d expect the likes of Quintana to suffer.
A change in the overall leadership as a result of the time trial would be a great thing for fans as it would add to the likelihood of an aggressive final summit finish the next day.
Stage 20: Saturday September 10, Benidorm – Alto de Aitana (summit), 184km
With any luck the overall general classification will still be close enough for the final summit finish to matter. Stage 20 last year saw Astana go to work on race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), the result being an overall win for Fabio Aru and Dumoulin’s drop to sixth – so it should still be all to play for.
The last chance for others to get a Grand Tour stage win in 2016 will also play its part in the formation of any breakaways and the ferocity with which the GC teams chase them down.
Stage 21: Sunday September 11, Las Rozas – Madrid, 102.5km
If there are any sprinters left, now is their time to get something out of this year’s race, but it could be a good day for a less out-and-out sprinter who has coped well enough in the mountains.
3,277.3km in total
Vuelta a España 2015 route
The Vuelta a Espana 2015 will mark the 70th edition of the Spanish Grand Tour with the inclusion of nine new summit finishes.
This year’s race will include a long flat time trial, something that the organiser Javier Guillén knew would appeal to Tour de France champion Chris Froome. With Froome’s inclusion in the race now confirmed, Guillén described it as ‘the icing on the cake’.
Organiser Unipublic presented the route on Saturday, January 10, in Málaga, just down the road from where the race will begin on August 22.
Vuelta Director Javier Guillén promised Froome a long and flat time trial after he lost the 2014 edition to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) by 70 seconds.
Froome, according to Guillén, was frustrated by the 36.7-kilometre time trial to Borja. It included a category three climb to 1000 metres and saw Froome concede 53 seconds to Contador.
The time trial may not matter with nine summit finishes. One stage will take place completely in neighbouring Andorra, covering only 138 kilometres but climbing 5230 metres.
Unipublic made a difficult and bold move to celebrate its 80th year. It would have had to find new towns willing to put up money to host stage finishes while ignoring fans who celebrate the known and famous climbs like Lagos de Covadonga and L’Angliru.
The Vuelta, however, will cover new ground every time it finishes uphill: Caminito del Rey (stage 2), Vejer de la Frontera (4), Cazorla (6), Capileira (7), Cumbre del Sol (9), Cortals d’Encamp (11), Fuente del Chivo (14), Sotres (15) and Ermita del Alba (16). The favourites will have to be on their toes because four of the nine finishes come in the race’s opening week.
The course crosses through Andalucía, Murcia and Valencia before transferring north to Andorra for its first rest day. It then skips around northern Spain and finish with a circuit race in the country’s capital of Madrid.
Defending champion Contador will not race in the Vuelta a España this year, having won the Giro d’Italia in May and finished fifth in the Tour de France in July.
Vuelta a España 2015 route
Vuelta a España 2015: Stages
Stage 1, August 22, Puerto Banús to Marbella, 7.4km TTT
Stage 2, August 23, Alhaurín de la Torre to Caminito del Rey (summit), 158.7km
Stage 3, August 24, Mijas to Málaga, 158.4km
Stage 4, August 25, Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera (summit), 213.6km
Stage 5, August 26, Rota to Alcalá de Guadaira, 167.3km
Stage 6, August 27, Córdoba to Sierra de Cazorla (summit), 200.3km
Stage 7, August 28, Jódar to La Alpujarra (summit), 191.1km
Stage 8, August 29, Puebla de Don Fadrique to Murcia, 182.5km
Stage 9, August 30, Torrevieja-Cumbre del Sol. Benitachell (summit), 1683.km
Stage 10, August 31, Valencia-Castellón, 146.6km
September 1, rest day in Andorra
Stage 11, September 2, Andorra la Vella to Cortals d´Encamp (summit), 138km
Stage 12, September 3, Escaldes-Engordany. Andorra to Lleida, 173km
Stage 13, September 4, Calatayud to Tarazona, 177km
Stage 14, September 5, Vitoria to Fuente del Chivo (summit), 215km
Stage 15, September 6, Comillas to Sotres (summit), 175.8km
Stage 16, September 7, Luarca to Ermita del Alba (summit), 185km
September 8, rest day in Burgos
Stage 17, September 9, Burgos to Burgos. 38.7km ITT
Stage 18, September 10 , Roa to Riaza, 204km
Stage 19, September 11, Medina del Campo to Ávila, 185.5km
Stage 20, September 12, San Lorenzo de El Escorial to Cercedilla, 175.8km
Stage 21, September 13, Alcalá de Henares to Madrid, 97.8km