The 2016 Vuelta a Espana is set to feature a short, but devilishly steep finish as early as stage 3, along with a return to the Asturias mountains.
The full route for next year’s edition of the Spanish Grand Tour will be officially unveiled in January, and the only thing that’s confirmed is that it will start out in the Galicia region in north west Spain. However, details of various stages have been emerging in the local Spanish press in recent days.
Galician newspaper Diario de Pontevedra has reported that on the third day riders will go from Marín to O Ezaro. The stage is set to finish at the Mirador de Ezaro, with a climb of just under 2 kilometres but with an average gradient of 14 per cent.
The climb takes the riders from sea level to 270 metres, and even features a fearsome ramp of 29 per cent. It has featured in the Vuelta before when in 2012 it played host to a memorable tussle between Joaquim Rodríguez and Alberto Contador, with the former coming out on top on the day but eventually losing out to his compatriot overall.
The Picos de Europa, the steep, jagged mountain range in the Asturias region of northern Spain, are also set to feature, though the famed Angliru climb will not be visited.
Asturian newspaper El Comercio reports that the ninth stage of the race, on August 28, will finish atop the Alto del Naranco. Rodríguez was also victorious the last time the race finished on the climb in the 2013 race. Negotiations are also reported to be underway for a stage finish nearby at the Lagos de Covadonga.
A third summit finish in northern Spain is also on the cards, with the Diario de León reporting that there will be a stage finishing at La Camperona. The climb is around 10km long, starting out in gentle fashion but becoming brutally steep by the end. The final three kilometres are well into double figures in terms of gradient percentages and there are ramps well into the twenties. The same climb was used in the 2014 edition and Ryder Hesjedal took the win just ahead of the main group of GC favourites. The León region will have a stage start, too, with Cistierna hosting the roll-out the following morning.
The race is also set to visit France in the third week, with a stage in the third week rolling over the border and back into Spain for a possible finish at Urdax, according to the Diario de Navarra. This is likely to be a less challenging affair that will be based around crucial mountain stages in the Pryenees in the final week.