Full details of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana route is due to be unveiled on Saturday but as the last Grand Tour of the three to be published each year, it is now almost a tradition that most of the 21 stages have already found their way into the public domain prior to the official event.
Formigal in the Pyrenees at the end of stage 15, and the Mas de la Costa climb in the region of Castellon near Valencia on stage 17. The third Grand Tour of the season will start in start in Galicia in the north west of Spain on August 20 before moving into the Asturias region and the Basque Country. Following that will be a trip to the Pyrenees and over the border for a visit to the Aubisque. The final week will head through the south east regions Valencia and Alicante, with a decisive time trial expected to finish Calpe, before the traditional sprint finish in Madrid. Fabio Aru (Astana) beat Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) to the 2015 Vuelta a Espana after a great race with Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
Formigal is not an excessively tough climb, but it is very long - 15 kilometres - and will come 24 hours after the ascent to the Aubisque. Last used in 2013, the Pyrenean ascent was the point where final winner Chris Horner began to eat into Vincenzo Nibali’s overall lead and where Warren Barguil took a second stage win, this time outwitting a much more experienced Rigoberto Uran.
Mas de Costa is much shorter, only four kilometres long, but - rather like the Cumbres del Sol climb where Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) fended off Chris Froome in spectacular style last year - it is brutally steep, averaging 12.4%, with 12 ‘ramps’ of between 17% and 2% in the last two kilometres. It is narrow and has never before been tackled in the Vuelta. It will also be preceded by three other classified climbs. Stage 17 also comes straight after the Vuelta’s second and final rest day and the subsequent radical change of pace often has a negative effect on some riders.
The 2016 route, which maintains the Vuelta tradition of numerous mountain-top finishes, time trials and few transition stages, will be revealed in full early on Saturday afternoon in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. The Vuelta starts on August 20th with a team time trial in Galician and finishes on September 11th in Madrid.