The climbers should like their chances at the 2022 Vuelta

The route of the 2022 Vuelta a España has been unveiled.

Photo: Aliya Barnwell

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Vuelta a España organizers unveiled the route of next year’s race on Thursday and, as ever, it should be a good one for the climbers.

The race will feature seven days that organizers are classifying as “mountain stages,” with a handful of very difficult hilly stages on tap as well. The race will start with a team time trial and will include only a single individual time trial of 31.1 km, giving those who can ride uphill quickly an advantage in the overall battle.

The 2022 Vuelta will roll out from the Netherlands, two years after prior plans to start there were scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race will get underway on August 19 with a 23.2 team time trial in Utrecht before back-to-back stages likely to favor the sprinters on mostly flat Dutch roads. The Vuelta’s sojourn in the Netherlands will be followed by an early rest day before the race heads to Spain for stage 4, a lumpy day that starts and finishes in the Basque Country province of Álava.

Things will stay hilly for stage 5, which will take riders over some punchy ascents on the way from Irun to Bilbao, and they’ll get even trickier on stage 6, which finishes with a Cat 1 climb in Cantabria. In other words, we won’t have to wait until the second week to see at least some GC action at the Vuelta.

A largely downhill finale will offer some respite on stage 7, but the climbers will come right back to the fore for another Cat 1 finish on stage 8, which features over 3,300 meters of climbing in Asturias. Yet another Cat 1 finale, this one shorter but steeper, awaits on yet another challenging day of racing on stage 9 before the peloton gets another rest day.

The race will make a lengthy transfer to Spain’s southeastern coast over the break and resume with an ITT in Alicante for stage 10. It’s a flat one that should favor the specialists over 31.1km.

Stage 10 will be the lone individual time trial in next year’s Vuelta.

The sprinters should get another opportunity on stage 11 as the race heads down the coast with a flat stage to Cabo de Gata in Andalusia, but then the climbers will do battle again on a Cat 1 finish at Peñas Blancas near Estepona.

Stage 13 should favor the sprinters again before two very difficult mountain stages in the Andalusian interior. Stage 14 closes out with the one-two punch of a Cat 2 climb leading into a Cat 1 finish, and then stage 15 will take riders up and over the Cat 1 Alto del Purche before the categoria-especial finish at the Hoya de la Mora pass, where Miguel Ángel López ascended to a stage victory in 2017.

Stage 15 of the Vuelta a España will finish at 1,682 meters of altitude.

That grueling finale will be followed by the Vuelta’s final rest day.

Next up is a sprinter-friendly stage 16 and a stage 17 that concludes with a punchy Cat 2 climb, and then it’s on to what should be a challenging stage 18, which starts and finishes in the Extremadura region. The second half of the stage features a Cat 2 climb, a Cat 1 climb, and then a Cat 1 finishing climb.

A short stage 19 could favor the break with two trips up and over the Cat 2 Puerto del Piélago and then stage 20 will be the final big chance for the GC contenders to make their mark. Much of the up-and-down stage will take place in higher altitudes over the course of five categorized climbs, with two Cat 1 climbs in the final 50km and finishing at 1,831m.

The 2022 Vuelta a España will finish in Madrid on September 11 with what should be a sprint showdown after a grand total of 3,280km covered over three weeks of racing.

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