The Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol 2018 route will include a summit finish at the Alto de Allanadas, the scene of Chris Froome's dramatic stage victory in 2015. The course will conclude with a final time trial in Barbate.
It constituted a spectacular early season duel between Froome and arch-rival Alberto Contador [who raced for Tinkoff-Saxo at the time] back in 2015. Froome's stage 4 solo win on the Alto de Allanadas enabled him to bounce back from a stinging defeat by Contador 24 hours earlier on stage 3, which took place in a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Taking the lead at the Alto de Allanadas from Contador, albeit by just one second, also set Froome up to become Britain's first-ever overall winner of the 82-year-old race.
One of Spain's best known early season events, the five-day Vuelta a Andalucia will start in very similar fashion to 2017, climbing inland from the Mediterranean coast for a rugged finale through the hills surrounding Granada.
Stage 2, the most mountainous of the race, concludes on the Alto de Allanadas, averaging 12 per cent over three kilometres for a third time since 2010. Andalucia's one 'transition' stage then follows, on stage 3, with a flattish run from the town of Mancha Real - at the foot of the Peña del Aguila climb where Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) outpaced a flagging Contador in 2017 - to Herrera in western Andalucia.
Stage 4 heads from Andalucia's capital, Sevilla, southwards to Alcala de los Gazules, the race's second uphill finish, not as hard as Alto de Allanadas, but which includes short sections of cobbles and ramps of up to 18 per cent. Andalucia's biggest innovation, though, is to shift its individual time trial from its usual mid-race point to the final day. Starting and finishing in the village of Barbate in the province of Cadiz, the time trial will include six kilometres of rough trackway, running uphill through a natural park, and is expected to decide the race.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Froome is expected to start his 2018 season either in Andalucia or in southern Portugal at the Volta ao Algarve, which runs concurrently. Should the Briton opt for a return to Andalucia, he would line up against Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and would have a first opportunity, too, to race against former teammate Mikel Landa since the Basque left Team Sky for Movistar.
Froome returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) at the 2017 Vuelta a España for twice the permissible dose of the asthma medication salbutamol. He could face a suspension, but outcome of that case has yet to be announced.
In November, Alejandro Valverde also said he would possibly return to the Vuelta a Andalucia, a race he has won a record-breaking five times, but it has yet to be confirmed.
2018 Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol
Stage 1: Wednesday, February 14: Mijas - Granada
Stage 2: Thursday, February 15: Otura - Alto de Allanadas
Stage 3: Friday, February 16: Mancha Real - Herrera
Stage 4: Saturday, February 17: Sevilla - Alcalá de los Gazules
Stage 5: Sunday, February 18: Barbate - Barbate (individual time trial)