Vuelta a Espana

2018 Vuelta a España route coming into focus

Vuelta route rumors point to another exciting route in 2018 with early climbs and an exciting finale in Basque Country and Andorra.

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The official 2018 Vuelta a España route presentation is nearing, January 13, and rumors indicate it will be another explosive climbers’ race.

The third and final grand tour of the season, August 25 to September 16, will travel south to north. After stages along the Portuguese border and those in Asturias, the Basque Country, and Andorra, it will finish in Madrid. Nine summit finishes are expected to punctuate the next edition.

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Only the two time trials — one on stage 1 in Málaga and one at a yet-unknown location during the third week, perhaps in Torrelavega — will balance the short, punchy mountain stages.

Comparable stages defined past editions. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) took control early in the 2015 edition before narrowly losing to Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took red with an ambush in 2016.

A similar 2017 route with multiple short mountain stages saw Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) win the race over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). However, the title is up in the air after test results showed he overused asthma drug Salbutamol.

Spanish media have leaked most of the stages that make up the three weeks. The popular Andalusian port city of Málaga will launch the Vuelta with a nine-kilometer individual time trial.

Critics cannot accuse organizer Unipublic of taking a siesta, as it cuts right into the meat of the 2018 edition on day two with a summit finish.

Caminito del Rey, where Esteban Chaves won in 2015, is the first of the nine summit finishes. Some will be long, high-altitude runs and others not so much — this one is four kilometers with sections of 13 percent.

The formula will be familiar to Vuelta fans. Organizers should favor shorter stages from 150 to 200 kilometers. Only one or two stages may surpass 200 kilometers. The climbs mostly appear late in the day during live TV coverage.

“The Vuelta has a very strong personality and easy to identify, short stages combined with ramps, mountains,” race director Javier Guillén told VeloNews last year. “And something that I think is very specific to the Vuelta, new climbs combined with traditional summits.”

Spanish website Zikloland reported that Guillén and Unipublic “maintained the Vuelta’s model.”

La Alfaguara, north of Granada, ends the fourth day with 12 kilometers uphill and ramps up to 20 percent. The climbing continues with La Covatilla, south of Salamanca and east of Portugal, as the Vuelta works its way north.

Near León, the race will return to climb La Camperona. It starts a series of three summit finishes in the second week. The race should travel east into Asturias for summit finishes, one reported at Lagos de Covadonga and another, a new one, at Les Praeres.

Les Praeres is similar to Los Machucos in 2017. Though the roads do not tilt quite as steep as 28 percent, they remain in the double digits for the short four-plus-kilometer climb.

The Basque Country, Monte Oiz, and two days in the Principality of Andorra on Spain’s northern border will sort the final classification. The final day, like most of the Vuelta’s last 72 editions, finishes in Madrid.