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Vuelta a España route 2018: As many as 10 summit finishes planned for mountainous race

Cycling Weekly

Race will take place between August 19 and September 10 - here's everything you need to know


Chris Froome will face a similar course if he lines up to defend his title at the 2018 Vuelta a España, August 25 to September 16, with as many as 10 summit finishes possible in next year’s race.

The 2017 Vuelta featured nine summit finishes, including the Cumbre del Sol, the Machucos climb and the Angliru. Next year’s route, the 2018 edition, will follow a similar explosive formula with some time trials to balance the classification battle.

In a break from the traditional team time trial opener, organiser Unipublic has announced that the opening stage will be a 10km time trial around the streets of Málaga, with local press even reporting that the finish could be on a street with a slick marble surface.

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Chris Froome finishes stage 20 of the 2017 Vuelta a España (Sunada) Yuzuru Sunada

A second longer time trial could come in the north, which means a similar long transfer like the rides faced ahead of the third week in 2017.

Unipublic, broadly speaking, wants to keep the stages short and with the last half mountainous. Perhaps one or two stages will push over the 200-kilometre marker. In 2017, three went over 200.

The organiser will start from Málaga with three stages, one in the centre of the beach city and two in the surrounding province. From Andalusia, expect the route to travel northwest into Extremadura, on the border of Portugal, and Castile-La Mancha.

The transfer could be before the stages in the north, in Cantabria and Asturias. Don’t expect to see the climbs to Los Machucos and Angliru again in 2018, but similar difficult Spanish slopes.

Building on the tried-and-tested formula of multiple summit finishes, with up to 10 summit finishes possible for the 2018 edition.

>>> Tour de France 2018 route: Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubaix cobbles return for 2018 race

“We will bet again on summit finishes, of which eight are already confirmed, and there would be 10. Of them, two or three finishes will be new,” event director, Javier Guillén told AS.

Guillén also said that the race will follow a similar structure as in recent years, with shorter uphill finishes in the first half of the race, and the big mountain-top finishes saved until the final week.

“When you organise a race, you just want it to work out,” he told Mundo Deportivo shortly after the end of  the 2017 Vuelta. “You want competition to the end, that the good cyclists come and they compete. I think all of this has been accomplished.

“We are going to do the same route, with short and explosive stages, discovering new places.”

The Vuelta almost exclusively stayed within its vast home country over the past 75 years.

The peloton climbs in the 2017 edition of the Vuelta a España (Sunada) Cycling Weekly

The 2018 edition could be the same even if Portugal is calling for a stage in Lisbon. At most, the Vuelta could slip over the border into France during some of its Pyrenean stages.

Unipublic will need to sort out the final week. It could fly the cyclists to the far northwest in Galicia. Ourense, which already had the Vuelta in 2017, looks ready for another visit.

The route could cut through Cantabria and Asturias to reach the Basque Country, where one stage is on the Unipublic planner.

From there, the race could have a Pyrenean final, reaching into Pau, France, before the last and nearly obligatory sprint stage in Madrid.

Vuelta a España 2017 route

The Vuelta a España route for 2017 featured nine summit finishes, including the Alto de l’Angliru and a single individual time trial.

The 2017 Vuelta a España started across the border in France on Saturday, August 19, and finish in the Spanish capital of Madrid three weeks later.

Vuelta a España route for 2017 Cycling Weekly

Vuelta a España route: 2017 stages

Vuelta a España 2017 route

Stage one: Nîmes (France) (TTT), 13.7km

Cycling Weekly

Though relatively flat, this is going to be a technical team time trial, weaving through the streets and historical buildings of the old city of Nîmes.

Stage two: Nîmes (France) – Gruissan (France), 203.4km

Cycling Weekly

A flat day taking place in France and designed to cater for the sprinters, though crosswinds might force an alternative as riders travel along the coastline. The charge for the line will be a technical affair, with roundabouts and central isles dotting the approach to the finish.

Stage three: Prades Conflent Canigó (France) – Andorra la Vella (Andorra), 158.5km

Cycling Weekly

The mountains arrive early in this race. Though there are some climbs along the way, the peloton is expected to ride together until Andorra. Reaching the climb to La Comella, a split is likely on the short sharp ascent.

Stage four: Escaldes-Engordany (Andorra) – Tarragona (Spain), 198.2km

Cycling Weekly

A second flat, sprinter’s day, a bunch finish is highly likely. However, with a lumpy route and one classified climb it’s still possible we’ll see a break make a go at disrupting routine.

Stage five: Benicàssim – Alcossebre, 175.7km

Cycling Weekly

Not a mountain stage, but also not flat, this stage is expected to wear down the legs of anyone not in perfect form. The second category climb at Serratella may cause trouble for some riders, and the uphill finish at the Ermita de Santa Lucía will highlight anyone who is short of form.

Stage six: Vila-real – Sagunt, 204.4km

Cycling Weekly

Another stage with moderate amounts of climbing, the repeated lumps here could favour a breakaway. The second category climb at Garbí could prove pivotal in the formation of a late escape group.

Stage seven: Llíria – Cuenca, 207km

Cycling Weekly

The longest stage of the race, and though it’s not a mountain affair, it’s also far from flat. The peloton will climb up to Cuenca, taking a route to the castle that features stone pavement and may cause cracks to show in those more suited to smooth roads.

Stage eight: Hellín – Xorret de Catí, 199.5km

Cycling Weekly

Usually a notable uphill finish, the organisers have moved the finish a couple of kilometres on from the summit of Xorret de Catí which includes slopes of over 20% towards the its top. This stage isn’t expected to result in any gaps in the general classification, but it’ll make for an exciting finale.

Stage nine: Orihuela – Cumbre del Sol, 174km

Cycling Weekly

Another summit finish, this time with a much flatter pre-amble. The majority of the route follows the Levante coast, and it’s likely some will choose to make the most of the winds and plan a breakaway.

Rest Day

Stage 10: Caravaca Año Jubilar – Elpozo Alimentación, 164.8km

Cycling Weekly

A day that could prove favourable to a break, with a largely flat stage that ends with a major climb up the Collado Bermejo. Though the finish is flat, what comes before it will cancel out the chances of any sprint specialists.

Stage 11: Lorca – Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto, 187.5km

Cycling Weekly

This could be a big day for the GC and we could even see the eventual winner in the lead at the end of the day. Though the second ascent is not one of the hardest, riders will need to perform well on both climbs: the Velefique and Calar Alto.

Stage 12: Motril – Antequera, 160.1km

Cycling Weekly

If gaps have opened in the GC, a break might be allowed to have its way today. However, they’ll have to contend with the Puerto del León (a first category climb) and the Puerto del Torcal (second category). The second climb features just 18km from the finish, meaning the descent will be as important as the climb.

Stage 13: Coín – Tomares, 198.4km

Cycling Weekly

There have been some hilly days so far, so now it’s time for the sprinters to shine, with only the odd bump on the profile to disrupt the sprinters, even if there is a slight uphill seection on the final run into Tomares.

Stage 14: Écija – Sierra de la Pandera, 175km

Cycling Weekly

Time to fit the mountains now. The final climb takes riders up La Pandera (first category), and high temperatures are also expected in this region. If the GC riders are content with their positions, they might let a break go – but if not, it might be used as an opportunity to move up the overall rankings.

Stage 15: Alcalá la Real – Sierra Nevada, 127km

Cycling Weekly

No rest for the wicked: this is one of the biggest mountain days in the race with on of the highest summit finishes in cycling. The final two categorised ascents are basically one huge climb, rising nearly 2,000m and taking more than an hour and a half to climb.

Rest Day

Stage 16: Circuito de Navarra – Logroño (ITT), 42km

Cycling Weekly

The only individual time trial of the race, the 40km route along the vineyards and wineries is fairly flat – but could result in some gaps on the GC. Being the day after the rest day, this stage could be dangerous for anyone who takes a hit in form after the break.

Stage 17: Villadiego – Los Machucos, 180.5km

Cycling Weekly

A flat beginning, but there’s 3,000 metres of climbing to come in the second half. There’s a major descent from La Luanda, which leads riders to the mountain pass in Alisas. The final climb follows the ‘infernal’ Los Machucos slopes and will be a major test.

Stage 18: Suances – Santo Toribio de Liébana, 169km

Cycling Weekly

This day features multiple back-to-back climbs, including the Collada de Carmona, Collada de Ozalba and Collada de la Hoz. The last 2.5km section climbs to the Santo Toribio de Liébana Monastery.

Stage 19: Caso – Gijón, 149.7km

Cycling Weekly

A day with some notable climbs, with 16.6km to go the riders will approach the San Martin pass – and any GC contenders starting to feel the burn could find themselves in danger here. A descent before the finish could favour a late attack on the third category climb followed by a daredevil descent.

Stage 20: Corvera de Asturias – Alto de l’Angliru, 117.5km

Cycling Weekly

This might be a shorter stage, but it’s far from a walk in the park thanks to a series of climbs – notably the brutal Alto de l’Angliru. Being the penultimate stage, this is the last chance for the GC contenders to make their mark, and the incredibly steep final climb could see time gaps measured in minutes rather than seconds at the top.

Stage 21: Arroyomolinos – Madrid, 117.6km

Cycling Weekly

A flat stage, it’s highly likely that whoever begins the stage in the leader’s jersey will finish it thus – barring any incidents. The sprinters will battle it out for a stage win in Madrid and the chance to cement their grip on the green jersey.

Previous Editions:

Vuelta a España 2016 route

The Vuelta a España featured 10 summit finishes over its three weeks from Ourense to Madrid, running from August 20 to September 11.

With the brutal, however, came the sane – the race stayed in Spain’s north and limited the transfers between its 21 stages.

The 10 summit finishes of 2016 were: 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 went 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 eased stress and lowered petrol consumption. The furthest south the peloton raced was the Aitana climb at the end of stage 20.

Vuelta a España 2015 route

The Vuelta a Espana 2015 marked the 70th edition of the Spanish Grand Tour with the inclusion of nine new summit finishes.

The race included 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 confirmed, Guillén described it as ‘the icing on the cake’.

Unipublic made a difficult and bold move to celebrate its birthday: the 2015 Vuelta covered new ground every time it finished 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 had to be on their toes because four of the nine finishes come in the race’s opening week.

>>> Vuelta a España 2014 route 

>>> Vuelta a España 2013 route 

The course crossed through Andalucía, Murcia and Valencia before transferring north to Andorra for its first rest day. It then skipped around northern Spain and finish with a circuit race in the country’s capital of Madrid.

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