This year's edition will see the pack cover over 3200 kilometers, take on two stages against the clock and tackle 46 categorised climbs.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Vuelta a España will start with a short individual time trial, on the streets of Malaga, the Mediterranean town which gave Pablo Picasso to the world, but renowned also for the Gibralfaro castle and Alcazaba fortress. From there, the riders will travel to the uphill finish of Caminito del Rey, where the first gaps between the overall contenders will be created.
The first week should be a feast for the sprinters, who will have several opportunities to fight for supremacy, but the flat stages could pose some problems for the GC men, due to the strong winds, which could play a bigger role in their fight than the climbs of Alhaurin de la Torre and La Covatilla.
A mix of flat, punchy and high mountain stages (La Camperona and La Covadonga) will spice up the second week; La Covadonga – which made its debut in the race back in 1983, when Marino Lejarreta took the win at the top – is the most iconic climb of the Vuelta a España, averaging 7.3% over 12.6 tough kilometers, and it could once again witness a fierce battle between the general classification riders.
After a well-deserved rest day, week three will open with a 32.7km-long individual time trial from Santillana del Mar and Torrelavega, which is set to host a finish for the first time in 17 years. Between this and Madrid, where the 73rd edition will conclude, the peloton will travel to the Basque Country for an unprecendent arrival on the "wall" of Mount Oiz (with 18% gradients), and to Andorra, where they'll be awaited by two grueling stages, one of which is packed with six major climbs.
"The first week of the Vuelta is really interesting and could see some significant gaps being made, but the decisive part of the race will come later, in the final week, once the pack will go to Andorra, where the race could be won or lost, judging by the profile of the last mountain stage", said Enric Mas, who at the moment is in Australia, for the 20th edition of the Tour Down Under. "Being at the start last year as a neo-pro was a truly fantastic experience, difficult to put into words even now, one from which I got to learn a lot of things. It's still early, but I would love to race my home Grand Tour again and discover many of the climbs that wrote history."
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers