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Vuelta Route Announced

Today, in Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol, the route of cycling's third Grand Tour was announced. Again, we can expect a tough race with many mountains.

Week One:

Stage 1: Puerto Banús - Marbella, 7.4 km (TTT)

Stage 1

Stage 1 is a rather ridiculous 7.4 kilometre team Time-Trial - prologue from Puerto Banús to Marbella, in the Costa del Sol, with not a hint of elevation. Perhaps it will be technical, or late at night. There'll be some gimmick, there's no way they'd do something like this without one. This is the sixth consecutive year the Vuelta has begun with a team time-trial.

Stage 2: Alhaurín de la Torre - Caminito del Rey, 165 km

Ah yes, this is the Vuelta we know. Hilltop finish on the second day, to the Caminito del Rey. Flat, with a few uncategorised bumps, at least until the last 25 kilometres. There's then a steady third category climb, followed by a short, sharp shock at the end. From a squint at the final climb, it looks like it rises about 350 metres in 2.5 kilometres. An early chance for a puncheur, it seems. Not the last one, either.

Stage 3: Mijas - Malaga, 164.6 km

Stage 3

Time for a sprinters' stage! Two early climbs, followed by a tiny bump with under 10 kilometres to go. Should lead to a sprinter (or whatever they have in Spain) winning.

Stage 4: Estepona - Vejer de la Frontera, 203 km

Stage 4

Stage 4, from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera, has no categorised climbs, but a sharp rise at the end, reminiscent of last year's stage 3, when Michael Mathews edged out Dan Martin in an uphill sprint.

Stage 5: Rota - Ronda, 182 km

Stage 5

Stage 5, from Rota to Ronda, has very few obstacles. A sprinter should certainly win

Stage 6: Córdoba - Sierra de Cazorla, 204 km

Stage 6

Sierra, eh? This sounds promising, you may think. However, this stage finishes on a 20 kilometre, I repeat, 20 kilometre, category 2 climb. Not a very steep one, though it does seem to kick up towards the end. Breakaway stage? Quite possibly.

Stage 7: Jódar - La Alpujara, 188.3 km

Stage 7

At the end on the first week (week-week, not before-first-rest-day-week) comes the first real mountain, La Alpujara. It has never been used before, and shockingly, neither have ANY of the other summit finishes. Seems quite difficult, especially the second half of the mountain.

Week Two:

Stage 8: Puebla de don Fadrique - Murcia, 186.6 km

Stage 8

A downhill stage. The two category three mountain won't provide much of a challenge, another sprint, or a breakaway if the peloton are tired.

Stage 9: Torrevieja - Cumbre del Sol Benitachell, 168.3 km

Stage 9

Transitional stage, with a ramp at the end, not too bad looking, except NO. That at the end is a category 1 climb which is 415 metres above sea level. It's not long, it's not high, so it must be steep. Unless there's been an error, it is category 1, as opposed, for example, to the horribly steep Mirador de Ezaro, which last time it was used, was only category 3. Yes, it's a bit longer, but what gradients must it have? Devilish ones, certainly.

Stage 10: Valencia - Castellón, 152 km

Stage 10

A transitional stage, before the Pyrenees, this could go to a break, or a sprinter again, the last climb peaking with over 20 kilometres left, and therefore not a GC challenge.

Stage 11: Andorra La Vella - Cortals D'Encamp, 138 km

stage 11

The Queen Stage to crown all Queen stages, this 138 kilometre stage starts at the foot of the Collada de Beixalis, and the climbing does not let up from there, there's 5000 metres of it! With 4 category 1 climbs, a category 2 and an Especial category, this stage is unmissable, plain and simple. I know it's January, but mark Wednesday September 2 into your diaries, now. The stage has been described by many as "too hard," and yes, there could be abandons, especially if it's cold.

Stage 12: Escaldes-Engordany, Andorra - Lleida, 172.5km

Stage 12

Transitional stages are here again. Only one categorised climb, sprint or break.

Stage 13: Calatayud - Tarazona, 168 km

Stage 13

Another transitional stage, with what looks, at least, like an uphill sprint at the end.

Stage 14: Vitoria - Alto Campoo, Fuente del Chivo, 213 km

Stage 14

Back to the mountains for stage 14, with two category 1 climbs to test the legs. The ascent of Puerto del Escudo is particularly nasty, with no descent to recover, and straight onto a flat road, leading straight to the main challenge - Alto Campoo. The 15 kilometre climb looks quite steep.

Week Three:

Stage 15: Comilas - Sotres, Cabrales, 175 km

Stage 15

The second consecutive mountain stage, this one may not be as hard. Category two, and then three, climbs precede the rise to Sotres.

Stage 16: Luarca - Ermita de Alba, Quiros, 184 km

Stage 15

If stage 11 is the queen stage, then this is the beautiful princess. With seven categorised climbs, including the steep rise to Ermita de Alba, this will provide time gaps. It is also the third summit finish, with the rest day being pushed back again.

Stage 17: Burgos - Burgos, 39 km (ITT)

Stage 17

In the Vuelta, we have become almost accustomed to a twist in the tail of individual time trials. They usually contain at least one categorised climb, but not this year. It is also quite long, at 39 kilometres. I feel almost cheated.

Stage 18: Roa - Riaza, 204 km

Stage 18

Downhill finish, but it doesn't look too steep. Probably a break, would you be bothered to chase?

Stage 19: Medina del Campo - Avila, 185 km

Stage 19

Bumpy transitional stage with a category 2 near the end, probably a break again.

Stage 20: San Lorenzo de el Escorial - Cercedilla, 181 km

Stage 20

Penultimate stage downhill finish! And you know what that means? Risks. On the last climb, there will be last gasp attacks from GC contenders, trying to move up, to take the red jersey. This stage could be thrilling, the lack of a summit finish makes it unpredictable. Watch out for it.

Stage 21: Alcalá de Henares - Madrid, 93.7 km

Stage 21

The Vuelta, somewhat boringly, tends to finish with this sort of stage, with a number of laps around Madrid. Whichever sprinter is left will take the prize, and the red jersey will be handed out for the last time.

If you would like to register an opinion about the course, or your disapproval of the fact that I'll probably dredge this up in August, let me know in the comments.