The Vuelta a España is sticking to its recent winning formula of hitting the mountains and staying there.
According to a report in the Spanish daily AS, the 2016 Vuelta could have as many as 10 mountaintop finales, one more than this year’s climb-heavy edition. The official route won’t be revealed until January 9, but AS is the official paper of the Vuelta, and usually paints an accurate picture of how the season’s third grand tour will look.
While last year’s route hit nine new mountaintop finales, the 71st Vuelta returns to familiar ground, including likely stops at Lagos de Covadonga and the short but explosive climb at Ézaro, which features ramps as steep as 30 percent. Other likely climbs include San Andrés de Teixido, Camperona, and Naranco, all in the first two weekends.
The race will stay in the north, with a possible return to Spain’s Basque Country, before turning into the Pyrénées for at least one more mountaintop finish. Stages in the Valencia region will see more climbs as well as what could be a decisive time trial. The race opens with a team time trial on August 20 in Ourense in northwest Spain.
If the AS prediction is true, the Vuelta could stay largely in the northern half of Spain, avoiding the Andalucía region in the south, and would have significantly easier transfers between stages, something that was creating a lot of complaints from teams and riders over the past few editions. The 2016 Tour de France also sees a major decrease of mid-race transfers.
With the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games set for two weeks after the Tour and two weeks before the Vuelta — the road race is August 6 — many of the peloton’s top names might be giving the Spanish grand tour a miss. This year’s Vuelta saw an unprecedented start list, with the top-four overall from the Tour lining up at the start. So far, only Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) have confirmed they will start the 2016 Vuelta.