The 2018 Vuelta a España will feature an exceptionally difficult second half, with six summit finishes in eight stages, as well as a possibly decisive third-week time trial of 32 kilometres in Torrelavega. The final mountain stages of the race will take place in Andorra, ahead of the concluding road stage in Madrid.
The Vuelta route was presented on Saturday morning in the town of Estepona in the province of Malaga, the southerly region which will host the first three stages of the race, as well as the start of the fourth. For the first time since 2009, the Vuelta will begin with an individual time trial, an 8km test in Malaga.
On stage 15, meanwhile, the Vuelta heads back to more recently familiar ground with the emblematic Lagos de Covadonga summit finish, tackled for the fifth time since 2010. But then the Vuelta veers into uncharted terrain with an ascent to the dramatically difficult and unprecedented Basque climb of Monte Oiz on stage 17, and then makes a short but exceptionally difficult mountain trek on the Vuelta’s second last stage, with 4,000 metres of vertical climbing packed into 105 kilometres through the Pyrenees of Andorra.
Although final stages in the high mountains are the norm in the Vuelta, the race has not remained in the Pyrenees so late on for well over half a century – more specifically, since 1957, when it crossed the Jaizkebel, now a regular feature in the Clasica San Sebastian, on the second last day.
The high number of summit finishes, the trademark feature of the modern Vuelta a España, remains identical to 2017, with nine. And just like last year, there will be three per week.
But the Vuelta a España will have a much easier first half, with the first big mountain stage, to Covatilla, on stage nine, and the grouping of most of the hardest summit finishes from stage 13 to 20. As Unipublic boss Javier Guillen said recently “we wanted a race that starts gently and which reaches a resounding conclusion.”
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