La Vuelta 2022 route review
After Giro and Tour it’s time to review the third and the final Grand Tour of the season. As usual, all the stages were inserted on LFR website in the Vuelta a Espana calendar and you are free to check the route for yourself. Said so, let’s go analyzing in deep the route.
Vuelta follow the classic scheme of the past years: an opening Team Time Trial and a 30 km ITT somewhere in the second week. Seven mountain stages, five middle mountain stages with 8 mountain top finishes. There are no stages longer than 200 kms but there are even no juniores stages of 120-130 kms like in TDF 2021, for example. Have read too many criticism for the route, to be honest, but this is a classic Vuelta route – a normal route with nothing special but not worthy of excessive criticism.
Sure, there are maybe 2 stages for long range attacks, that are Pornal and Navacerrada, but Vuelta, more than the other Grand Tours, has been a Grand Tour in which you can literally tune up, watch the last 30′ and you’ll lose nothing relevant. What we saw last year was the anomaly – and was mainly because Vuelta was not directly followed by the worlds as it will be in 2021 with UCI going back in a more traditional calendar.
This will have as usual a direct impact in the route with the 2nd week being more heavier than the third one even if fortunately won’t be like 2020 (in which Vuelta was in november, but was designed for the original calendar and third week was basically terrible for GC gaps). There are are so at least 13 stages in which we can have some GC gaps on a total of 21 – this is the core of the Vuelta: small gaps on several stages, it always has been. Roglic and Pogacar are expected to be here with Evenepoel, Bernal can even make an appearance after TDF to complete his triple crown – so unlike Giro this year Vuelta will be significantly packed and the right way to get this startlist is to have a demanding route but not as hard as Giro and the Tour ones.
So, it’s an exceptional route? Definitely not. It’s a bad route? Only if this it was a Giro or a Tour de France. The error of these two is trying to make more like this their routes instead of keeping their traditional views: Giro is the true cycling race, the most demanding, that only a true rider can win and TDF the big kermesse with top world athletes with a less demanding route over 21 days but two big GC days.
Vuelta 2022 opens in Netherlands with a 23,3 km TTT that will surely set some important gaps between the GC riders. For the rest this is a pretty standard Grand Depart with two flat stages and almost no big difficulties. The race isn’t even passing in the most windy zones of the country, so while wind can still be a thing – don’t expect it as a main difficulty of the first three stages – if there will be some wind probably more of Breda stage than Utrecht one but nothing like TDF 2015. Expect a double sprint and rather than crashes there arent’t any further difficulties
The second week starts with two hilly stages in basque country in which the Bilbao one has surely some GC potential and would’ve been a great stage if placed as Stage 20 like last year. Pico Jano will be the first MTF of the race after Collada de Brenes. Pico Jano is a steep climb in first part while the second is still good but less steeper – ideal climb for attacking in the first part and expanding the gap in the second.
Cistierna stage is the first stage that has written “breakaway” all over it with the San Glorio climb in the middle of the stage – the climb is too hard to keep resistent riders and domestiques to close the brekaway and this isn’t even TDF in which you have your better teammates as domestiques.
Collau Fancuaya stage is one of the stages I personally marked with a red circle: the stage has an uphill start and it usually brings chaos. The rest is all up and down making it difficult to follow and close attacks and being not too long this can add some suprises on the route. The final climb is a classic Vuelta MTF ending with the steep final ramp that at the moment is also on unpaved road.
Week will close on Les Praeres that hosts again a finish after 2018 when Simon Yates won it in front of Lopez and Valverde. Climb is short and steep – don’t expect big gaps here but surely a GC battle for the stage is the bigger option on the table.
Second week of la Vuelta opens with the classic 30 km mid-race Vuelta ITT – honestly good having it setting up here before the mountains so it will give a good incentive to attack to whoever will lose a big amount of time. Flat stage for sprinters and then it will be Penas Blancas MTF day. Climb is 20 km @ 6.8%, imagine it more like a regular classic TDF climb and it’s back in the route after Stage 8 of 2013 – in that day there was a big group after 2 km banner (despite Radioshack paced for Hoerner) when Konig did the winning move attacking with a group with Basso, Pinot, Moreno and Roche. Following what happened on that day would say to not expect big gaps here.
After another sprint in Montilla will so be time for Sierra de la Pandera. Climb has been faced in 2017 with Majka winning from the breakaway and almost no gaps in GC favourites – it’s a short climb but with steepneess over 13% in the middle part for 2 km. In 2009 Cunego won the stage here from the breakaway while in the GC Samuel Sanchez gave 20” to Valverde-Gesink and 40” to Ivan Basso. In 2006 instead Vinokorouv soloed it winning by 53” on Valverde and making it a cornerstone of his final 1’13” win in Madrid, but was another era being pre bio-passport.
Sierra Nevada will close the week with the climb being taken from a new side. This year, starting from north side, the climb will feature an hard part with slopes over 10% for the first five kms, then going for a regular 7-8-9%. Climb it’s 20 km at 7.9% avg and this makes it different than Penas Blancas being more hard. Alto del Purche before the climbs makes this stage definitely the one that can mark the GC if it will be raced aggressively.
As anticipated in the overwiew, third week is easier than the second one due mainly to the fact that it will lead to the World Championships. Sprint in Tomares opens it, followed by a punchy finish in Monastero de Tentudia that will surely gave some gaps but not big ones. Alto de Piornal stage will be the last MTF of the race and it’s the only other stage that featured a possible penultimate climb for long-rangfe attacks.
Piornal is a new MTF for the Vuelta and unfortunately it’s not the hardest one being 5.6% avg. Being in the third week will surely help it to get some GC gaps in there, otherwise it’s a stage that a good team can control with the classic train technique from old Sky school.
Talavera de la Reina stage it’s honestly a stage that has 0 sense as stage 19. It clearly invites the peloton in taking a rest day and the breakaway to play for the stage. Puerto del Pielago is too soft to make any significant differences – seems the classic Vuelta Magnus Cort stage if taken softly. The only rider who can literally make the race explode here is honestly Remco Evenepoel taking advantage of his superior skills on the flat in comparison to the rest of contenders over a small group.
Stage 20 of the Vuelta is basically the usual Madrid climbs stages and it copies the famous stage of 2015 ending in Cercedilla when Aru dropped Dumoulin winning the race. A similar stage was also done in 2018 with Higuita winning in Becerril de la Sierra with 15” over rest of GC peloton. In both the occasions this stage was in third week and a small group of 4-5 riders makes the top of Puerto de Cotos.
Stage like that seems a waste of opportunity because it can make difference only if one rider gets a bad day and only if it’s raced top aggressive like Vuelta 2021 stage 20 – and it needs to be raced like that since Navafria. Would’ve expected here a trip on Bola del Mundo but organziers decided to stop at the top of Navacerrada. Will see if the experiment will pay – in 2015 it did, in 2018 it did not.
Vuelta will then concludes with the traditional Madrid circuit after the trip to Santiago de Compostela of last year. Nothing to be expected unless you are a big fan of the traditional parades and processions before entering the circuit that should not belong to the sport.
Vuelta 2022 presented a classic traditional route with surprisingly limiting the steep climbs. We can expect a traditional MTF battle with small gaps and GC changing every day even if with this route who has time to recover should invent more than that to turn out his GC situation.
If Roglic will be there to defend his title like in last two years, he’ll be again the big favourite, even with Pogacar in. TTT is a big advantage for Jumbo-Visma and it’s good we finally have TTTs back in the world of cycling and in a Grand Tour after they were shamefully removed from the World Championships denying the fans to see a top level race of this discipline every year.
I would say in the end that I am curious a lot to see how Remco Evenepoel will perform on this route that in his simplicity allows some tricky attacks even in long flat sections with reduced peloton that suits his strong points a lot. The route is still not as good as TDF that is indeed the best grand tour route of 2022 but, as stated before, this is Vuelta – the third grand tour. Almost no rider will target it as first season objective – is not even close to Giro for the importance of winning it, but has big names at the start and it’s fun to see.
Did you like the route? Let me know down belows in the post comments.
Co-Founder of LFR account. Cycling lover since early 2000s. Say no to short stages.
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