2019 Vuelta a Espana to feature eight summit finishes

The 2019 Vuelta a Espana will stick to recent tradition next year with a plethora of summit finishes and plenty of uncharted territory. According to a report by the Spanish publication AS, the route will feature eight summit finishes, half of which will be new to the race.

In addition to the many mountains, AS also reported that the race was looking to create some intense racing with no stage going over the 200km mark. Where the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia often feature stages over that distance, the Vuelta has often shied away from it. This year stage 11 to Luintra was the only one to exceed 200 kilometres in length, while the last Vuelta to feature no stages over that mark was the 2012 race where Alberto Contador took the overall honours.

The full route of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana will not be revealed until December 19, but parts of the parcours have been leaking out gradually to various factions of the Spanish media. At present, the only certainty is that the race will start in Alicante at the Las Salinas de Torrevieja nature park on August 24. The opening stage will be a time trial, though it has not yet been confirmed whether it will be an individual or team event. The race will spend two more days in the Alicante region before moving on.

After that, nothing is for certain but pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. Olga Gelebert, Andorra’s Minister for Culture, Sport and Youth, told El Periòdic d'Andorra last month that the Vuelta would return to the region for the third year running. A home to several professional riders, Andorra’s mountains have become a popular feature of the Vuelta and the Tour in recent seasons. Where the route will go is not yet clear but Cortals d’Encamp – where Mikel Landa won in 2015 – has been touted as a potential finish.

Another foreign visit may also be on the cards with the French city of Pau a candidate to host a stage. A time trial has been rumoured, although it is already set to host a chrono for the Tour de France in July.

Basque newspaper El Correo reported earlier this month that the race would venture through the region with a stage finish in Bilbao. From there, it would head towards the Cantabrian mountains and the formidable climb of Los Machucos. The nine-kilometre ascent made its debut in 2017 with Stefan Denifl taking victory. The climb averages nine per cent with peaks of 30 per cent and is certain to have an impact on the fight for the overall classification.

Further along the north coast, the race is also expected to head to Asturias once again for three stages. There will be two summit finishes as well as a potential sprint day into the region’s capital Oviedo, the first time it has hosted the race since 1987.

The Puerto de la Cubilla and the Alto del Acebo will host the summit finishes, and are two of the new additions to the race. In contrast to the Vuelta’s general desire to find short and punchy climbs, these two are slightly more of a slog. La Cubilla is a 27-kilometre effort that is a popular ride for cycle tourists. It averages five per cent and maxes out at 10. The Alto del Acebo is a little more known to fans of professional racing as it regularly used for the three-day Vuelta a Asturias. It is just 10km long and averages 8.2 per cent.

In the final week of the race, AS reports that the route will start making its way from Asturias towards Madrid, missing out the Galicia region, which hosted two stages of the 2018 race. As it picks its way down south, the race will take in a stage from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara. A stage is also due to be held in the province of Avila on the outskirts of Madrid. According to the Diario de Avila, it will be the penultimate stage of the race and will feature a summit finish in the Sierra de Gredos, which stretches across the northern horizon of Madrid.

A finish in Toledo, just south of Madrid could also be on the cards after the President of the Castille-La Mancha province Emiliano García-Page petitioned the organisers to hold a stage. He hopes to honour the 60th anniversary of local rider Federico Bahamontes’ overall win at the Tour de France.

The final stage will be the traditional final sprint stage will be held on September 15 from Fuenlabrada into the centre of Madrid.

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