The peloton heads to Spain this weekend to take part in the Vuelta a Espana, the third and final grand tour of the 2013 season.

As opposed to this season’s other three-week grand tours, the 2013 Vuelta offers something for seekers of instant gratification. Whereas the Giro and the Tour built up slowly – consisting mostly of flat terrain in the opening days, with only the occasionally testing climb to offer a tantalising glimpse of the giant icons that await in the final week – the route of this year’s Vuelta throws up a mountain top finish as early as stage two.

This finish, atop the category one Alto do Monte da Groba, is one of a remarkable 11 stages that finish on uphill, making this year’s Vuelta undeniably one for the climbers. Even the single individual time trial en route – stage 11′s circuit around Tarazona – will see the riders spend much of their time going uphill.

With such a quantity of climbs the race will likely play out in a similar fashion to last year, when the best climbers – Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde – rode away from the rest and battled it out between each other. Barring Contador’s ingenious usurping of Rodriguez’s lead on an innocuous looking transition stage, there wasn’t much in the way of subtlety, but so many difficult stages offer quite a spectacle nonetheless.

Team test opener
Before battle commences in the mountains, the favourites will have to be careful not to lose too much time in the team time trial that opens this year’s race in the Galician municipality of Vilanova de Arousa. The format has in the past caught many a team of small, unprepared climbers off guard, and at 27 kilometres long there is the potential for sizable time gaps.

Following stage two’s summit finish, the peloton takes on a series of lumpy stages as it heads eastwards, before a transfer south sees them tackle the only two pan flat stages prior to Madrid. By stage eight they will have reached the southern coast, which is where the real mountains begin; in the space of four days the peloton will finish on the category one Alto de Penas Blancas and the hors category Alto de Hazallanas, with a much needed rest day in the middle for them to catch their breath.

Another long transfer has the peloton head up north for the time trial in Tarazona and a stage in Tarragona, before tackling a series of back to back mountain stages in the Pyrenees, taking on many monstrous climbs such as the Port de Envalira, and the Col de Peyragudes across the French border.

The riders are able to enjoy a brief respite with a rest day on the final Tuesday and a modest stage into Burgos, before completing another trio of decisive mountain top finishes, culminating in the dreaded Alto de L’Angliru. Of all the mountains that populate the route, the Angliru is undoubtedly the hardest with its relentless gradients of over 10 per cent. In this year’s Vuelta it will play host to the final showdown of the climbers, before the final ceremonial stage into Madrid.

Vuelta a Espana 2013: Stages

St Type Date From/To Distance
1 Team time trial Saturday 24 August Vilanova de Arousa – Sanxenxo 27.4km
2 Mountains Sunday 25 August Pontevedra – Baiona. Alto Do Monte Da Groba 177.7km
3 Flat Monday 26 August Vigo – Mirador de Lobeira / Vilagarcía de Arousa 184.8km
4 Mountains Tuesday 27 August Lalín/a Estrada – Finisterra. Etapa Fin del Mundo 189km
5 Mountains Wednesday 28 August Sober – Lago de Sanabria 174.3km
6 Flat Thursday 29 August GuiThulo – Cáceres 175km
7 Flat Friday 30 August Almendralejo – Mairena de Aljarafe 205.9km
8 Mountains Saturday 31 August Jerez de la Frontera – Estepona. Alto Peñas Blancas 166.6km
9 Mountains Sunday 01 September Antequera – Valdepeñas de Jaén 163.7km
10 Mountains Monday 2 September Torredelcampo – Güéjar Sierra. Alto Hazallanas 186.8km
Rest Day Tuesday 3 September
11 Time trial Wednesday 4 September Tarazona – Tarazona 38.8km
12 Flat Thursday 5 September Maella – Tarragona 164.2km
13 Mountains Friday 6 September Valls – Castelldefels 169km
14 Mountains Saturday 7 September Bagà – Andorra, Collada de la Gallina 155.7km
15 Mountains Sunday 8 September Andorra – Peyragudes 224.9km
16 Mountains Monday 9 September Graus – Sallent de Gállego. Aramón Formigal 146.8km
Rest Day Tuesday 10 September
17 Flat Wednesday 11 September Calahorra – Burgos 189km
18 Mountains Thursday 12 September Burgos – Peña Cabarga 186.5km
19 Mountains Friday 13 September S. Vicente Barquera – Oviedo.Alto Naranco 181km
20 Mountains Saturday 14 September Avilés – Alto de L´Angliru 142.2km
21 Flat Sunday 15 September Leganés – Madrid 109.6km



Click on the map to enlarge

Vuelta a Espana 2013: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale (Fra)
Argos-Shimano (Ned)
Astana (Kaz)
Belkin (Ned)
BMC Racing (USA)
Caja Rural (Spa)
Cannondale (Ita)
Cofidis (Fra)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (Spa)
FDJ (Fra)
Garmin-Sharp (USA)
Katusha (Rus)
Lampre-Merida (Ita)
Lotto-Belisol (Bel)
Movistar (Spa)
NetApp-Endura (Ger)
Omega Pharma-QuickStep (Bel)
Orica-GreenEdge (Aus)
Radioshack-Leopard (Lux)
Saxo-Tinkoff (Den)
Sky (GBr)
Vacansoleil-DCM (Ned)

2008 and 2012 champion Alberto Contador

Vuelta a Espana: Recent winners
2012 Alberto Contador (Spa)
2011 Juan Jose Cobo (Spa)
2010 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita)
2009 Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2008 Alberto Contador (Spa)
2007 Denis Menchov (Rus)
2006 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
2005 Denis Menchov (Rus)
2004 Roberto Heras (Spa)
2003 Roberto Heras (Spa)

Vuelta a Espana: Last year’s top ten (2012)
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank Tinkoff in 84-59-49
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1-16
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-37
4. Christopher Froome (GBr) at Team Sky at 10-16
5. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha 11-29
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 12-23
7. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp at 13-28
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 13-41
9. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel at 14-01
10. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 16-31
Other
12. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 17-50
111. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky at 2-55-45
121. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at 3-01-13
156. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC at 3-27-18

Vuelta a Espana 2013: TV guide
The 2013 Vuelta a Espana will be shown live on digital channel British Eurosport. For more details see the online British Eurosport TV schedule >>

ITV4 will air a daily highlights programme every evening. ITV4 >>

Related links

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Coverage index

External link

Vueta a Espana official website

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  • Rob Connolly

    For reference, there is also a highlights show on ITV4 10-11pm on Saturday and 7-8 pm other days.