Stage 1: Irun to Arrate, Eibar
The Vuelta gets right down to business as it heads into the mountains of the Basque country on the very first stage. Three categorized climbs precede what is nearly a summit finish at the end. “Nearly a summit finish” in that the final 2.5km are flat to downhill, but that’s atop the Cat. 1 climb of Alto de Arrate. The Vuelta won’t be won today, but we should have a good sense of who the contenders are, and who isn’t racing in the GC, at the end of this day. The last time the Vuelta finished on Arrate was in 2012, when Alejandro Valverde beat out the likes of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.
Stage 2: Pamplona to Lekunberri
Another early hard day, stage 2 features a Cat. 1 climb near the end that will break things up. Alto de San Miguel de Aralar is no joke; this last climb averages 8 percent but it kicks to 17 percent towards the end of the 10km climb. The climb is remarkable for its concrete surface, and the views of the sanctuary at the top.
Stage 3: Lodosa to La Laguna Negra-Vinuesa
Although there are technically only two climbs on this stage, the entire day is uphill, with the final 18km being a categorized climb. With uncertainty being the name of the game in pro cycling in 2020 — Will more races be canceled? Will this race be ended prematurely? — early aggression by the general-classification hopefuls can’t be ruled out today.
Stage 4: Garray, Numancia to Ejea de los Caballeros
While the sprinters hated the previous day with its net elevation gain, they will love today’s stage, which descends almost entirely the whole way from Sora to Ejea de los Caballeros. While a breakaway is always a possibility in a stage race, a bunch sprint looks like all but a certainty today.
Stage 5: Huesca to Sabiñánigo
Stage 5 is a tale of two profiles: the first half features a number of rollers and the second half features three categorized climbs in quick succession. The Cat. 2 Alto de Vio climb is 13km long with a 4.5-percent gradient. The second climb, the Alto de Fanlo is of a similar gradient but half the length, and thus the Cat. 3 designation. But the Alto de Petralba kicks right away with pitches as steep as 9.5 percent. It’s also a novel climb in that it features two tunnels, the second of which is 2.5km long!
Stage 6: Biescas to Col du Tourmalet
Hey, isn’t the Tourmalet in France, you ask? Why, yes it is. Today the Vuelta heads over the Pyrenees at the Alto del Portalet / Col du Pourtalet and into France for a beast of a stage. After the first Cat. 1 climb comes the HC Col d’Aubisque, a stout, 16.6km climb at 7 percent average. Robert Gesink won here atop the Aubisque in the 2016 Vuelta. But this year the Aubisque is nowhere near the finish, as riders will plunge off the mountain to the east toward the Tourmalet, a 19km climb that grinds away at 7.4-percent average, with its final kilometer kicking over 10 percent.
Stage 7: Vitoria-Gasteiz to Villanueva de Valdegovia
The Cat. 1 Puerto Orduña is so nice, the Vuelta organizers decided to send riders up it twice. The 7.6km, 5-percent climb comes at mile 60 and then again at mile 132. Although technically not a mountain stage, the Puerto Orduña will provide attackers ample opportunity. It’s not a finish for climbers, though.
Stage 8: Logroño to Alto de Moncalvillo
Today’s finish is brand new to the Vuelta, but the start town is familiar to race fans; it was here in Logroño where Chris Froome won the 2017 time trial en route to his overall Vuelta victory. After rolling out of Logroño, the riders will tackle the Cat. 2 Puerto de la Rasa (9.9km at 9 percent) before a long descent that puts them at the foot of the 11km Alto de Moncalvillo, which averages 9 percent.
Stage 9: Base Militar Cid Campeador, Castrillo del Val to Aguilar de Campoo
This sprint stage features a loop around the Aguilar Reservoir just west of Aguilar de Campoo before finishing in that quaint town with medieval ruins and churches dating back to the 11th century.
Stage 10: Castro Urdiales to Suances
The second consecutive stage for the sprinters finishes in Suances, where the Vuelta last finished in 2008. That year, Paolo Bettini took the win over Davide Rebellin and Damiano Cunego. Coastal winds could affect the race, with the route only going inland for the day’s one Cat. 3 KOM. While sprinters might suffer over the 5.5km Alto de San Cipriano, the last 10km of the stage are dead flat into Suances.
Stage 11: Villaviciosa to Alto de La Farrapona, Lagos de Somiedo
Five categorized climbs, and no place to hide. The gradient kicks upward from the first kilometer, with the Cat. 3 Alto de la Campa immediately on tap. From there, four Cat. 1 climbs will pummel the field — or, more accurately, will allow the best climbers to pummel the rest of the field. Alberto Contador and Chris Froome battled each other up the Alto de la Farrapona in 2014, with Contador attacking in the steeper finale of the 16.5k climb to snatch a few seconds.
Stage 12: La Pola Llaviana/Pola de Laviana to Alto de l’Angliru
One look at the profile and you know today’s stage will be decisive in the 2020 Vuelta a España. The mighty Angliru gets meaner the higher it goes. The 12.5km starts off at about 8 percent for the first half, but then pitches to an average of 15 percent for the rest of the way up. And that’s average; the Cueña les Cabres portion near the top tips to a silly 23.5 percent.
Stage 13: Muros to Mirador de Ézaro, Dumbría
Reminiscent of the time trial of the 2020 Tour de France, today’s stage is a pancake-flat time trial — until it isn’t. The last 2km is a Cat. 3 climb! So while the climb is only 2km long, it’s 14.6 percent on average with spots that hit nearly 30 percent! Bike choice will be interesting today.
Stage 14: Lugo to Ourense
Today is a long slog through the Galician hills, and with the general classification likely broken down considerably, lower-placed riders will likely be given a lease to get into a breakaway.
Stage 15: Mos to Puebla de Sanabria
Today is the longest day of the 2020 Vuelta. Often, a stage race’s longest day is a flat one, but no such luck today. Five categorized climbs punctuate the stage from Óscar Pereiro’s hometown to Puebla de Sanabria, where Jonas Van Genechten found glory in the sprint ahead of Daniele Benatti and Alejandro Valverde.
Stage 16: Salamanca to Ciudad Rodrigo
Today is another day for a breakaway, with enough climbing to shake things loose, but a flat finish meaning a shake-up in the general classification is unlikely. The first part of the race is nothing special. On rolling roads the riders head in a southeasterly direction. The Alto El Portillo climb is 6.7km long at 4 percent, and the Alto El Robledo is shorter but steeper at 7 percent.
Stage 17: Sequeros to Alto de La Covatilla
Today is the last day for riders battling for the general classification to make a move. Five categorized climbs will soften up the legs for the final up to the ski resort of La Covatilla. While the 9.8km final climb doesn’t sound too bad on paper at 7.1 percent, there are a few kickers within that which could pry small groups apart. The race has finished here five times before. Ben King (2018), Dan Martin (2011), Danilo di Luca (2006), Félix Cárdenas (2004), and Santi Blanco (2002) have all won here.
Stage 18: Hipódromo de la Zarzuela to Madrid
Normally, the Vuelta is three weeks long like the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. But 2020 of course is not a normal year, so today wraps up the Spanish grand tour with a flat run into Madrid for the sprinters to shine. After an 80km romp into the city, the race will tackle six circuits before the 2020 Vuelta a España concludes in the city center.