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In what was an already demanding Vuelta a España route just got a little bit harder Friday after race officials revealed lumpy profiles to replace two sprint-friendly stages across Portugal.
Last month, Portuguese officials pulled the plug on two stages that were set to enter Spain’s neighbor in the Vuelta’s third week, citing complications from the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. On Friday, race officials confirmed route details for the two stages — both firmly within Spanish borders — set to replace them.
Instead of two relatively straight-ahead stages in Portugal, the peloton will instead face back-to-back stages across uneven, hilly terrain. Stage 15 is converted into the Vuelta’s longest stage at 234km, running from Galicia in northwest Spain and finishing in Puebla de Sanabria featuring four third-category climbs.
The next day’s 16th stage is shorter at 162km, and runs from Salamanca, and dips into Spain’s rugged Sierra de Francia and Las Hurdes regions before finishing in Cuidad Rodrigo. The route features a second-category climb at little more than halfway, with the first-category Alto del Robledo with about 30km to go.
With the new additions coming late in what’s already a very demanding route, Vuelta technical director Fernando Escartín said the stages favor breakaways, but could prove decisive for GC favorites in what will be a weary peloton.
“The riders fighting for the GC will really have to concentrate,” Escartín said Friday. “A mistake so close to the end could cost them dearly.”
The Vuelta already saw its opening weekend in the Netherlands removed from its itinerary, meaning that the 2020 edition will only feature 18 stages. The new route will begin in Spain’s Basque Country, but still includes a planned detour into France for a mountaintop finale at the Col du Tourmalet at the end of the first week.
The 2020 route stays in the northern half of Spain, and with the rescheduled dates running from October 20 to November 8, there is the added risk of inclement weather.