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Vuelta a Espana

2019 Vuelta menu: Short stages, summit finishes

The route for the Spanish grand tour will be unveiled next week, but details are leaking out.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Short stages and eight uphill finishes will mark the 2019 Vuelta a España, according to reports in the local Spanish press.

Race organizer Unipublic will unveil the route for the August 24-September 15 race next week in Alicante, Spain. The race will start in the southeastern Costa Blanca province.

The first week will get right to business. It should feature one of the eight summit finishes, half of which are new to the Vuelta a España, according to a report by AS. El Puig in Valencia should host the uphill stage and see the climbers show off their skills.

This year, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) won the Vuelta. At 26, he was the “veteran” on the podium, finishing ahead of climbers Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors), 23, and Miguel Angel López (Astana), 24.

The 2019 Vuelta will kick off with a team time trial in Torrevieja. That and the Alicante stage start mark the race’s low point elevation-wise, as the 74th edition is not due to go to Spain’s southern areas like Andalusia and Murcia.

The organizer plans to end the first week in Andorra with a likely rest day in Pau, France, which often hosts Tour de France rest days.

Pau could also help balance the Vuelta route with a long time trial. It may be needed with short stages — none planned are over 200 kilometers — and the eight summit finishes.

The second week travels west out of the Basque Country through Cantabria and Asturias on the northern coast. The punchy Los Machucos finish, where Chris Froome (Sky) looked vulnerable in 2017, climbs 7.2km and reaches grades of 30 percent at points.

Local officials in Asturias already confirmed they will host three stages in 2019, a list that includes two new summit finishes.

The Alto del Acebo is often in the Vuelta a Asturias as the queen stage. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) conquered this pass — which is 10km with an 8.2 percent average and sections over 10 percent — in the snow during last year’s Asturias race.

La Cubilla is long and offers amazing views of the national park area. The first 9km ease into the final 20km at an average of around 7 percent and pitches of 10 percent to reach 1,683 meters above sea level and a second rest day around Burgos.

The Vuelta could also pass Toledo to pay tribute to Federico Bahamontes 60 years after his 1959 Tour de France victory. Given the race’s close race relationship with Tour organizer ASO, this seems likely.

The race should travel through Ávila to reach Madrid. Some local press say it could head into the Sierra de Gredos mountain range for a summit finish.

A summit finish on the penultimate stage appears likely before the traditional Madrid sprint stage to end the Vuelta. One theory is that the Vuelta caravan will head into the the Sierra de Guadarrama ahead of the Madrid finale.

The short stage/mountainous route formula is a success in the eyes of the organizer. Vuelta director Javier Guillén told local press last summer that the 2019 route will have “more of the same because it works, with new territories, new cities, [and] two to three new summit finishes.”