Vuelta a España: Aubisque-Tourmalet stage 6 re-routed due to French health measures

LEKUNBERRI SPAIN OCTOBER 21 Carlos Verona Quintanilla of Spain and Movistar Team Luis LeonSanchez Gil of Spain and Astana Pro Team Marc Soler Gimenez of Spain and Movistar Team Alejandro Valverde Belmonte of Spain and Movistar Team Enric Mas Nicolau of Spain and Movistar Team White Best Young Jersey Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio of Colombia and Team Mitchelton Scott Mikel Nieve Ituralde of Spain and Team Mitchelton Scott Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa of Portugal and UAE Team Emirates David Gaudu of France and Team Groupama FDJ Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma Red Leader Jersey Sepp Kuss of The United States and Team Jumbo Visma Polka Dot Mountain Jersey Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers Green Points Jersey Peloton Landscape during the 75th Tour of Spain 2020 Stage 2 a 1516km stage from Pamplona to Lekunberri lavuelta LaVuelta20 La Vuelta on October 21 2020 in Lekunberri Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Movistar pace the peloton on stage 2 of the Vuelta a España (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Vuelta a España will not scale the mighty Col du Tourmalet or Col d'Aubisque on Sunday's stage 6 after coronavirus restrictions have made the race’s planned foray into France impossible.

In similar circumstances to the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta organisers have had to totally redesign what had been considered the queen stage of the 2020 edition.

“Unfortunately, the stage we had planned for October 25, with the summit finish on the Tourmalet, in the end will not be able to happen,” said race director Javier Guillén after stage 3 on Thursday.

“The reason is that, given the state of emergency declared in France, and the restrictions imposed, we can’t, as a race, pass into French territory.”

Stage 6 had originally been set to pack three big climbs into a 136km route that entered French territory at the top of the Col du Portalet. It then went on to the Col d’Aubisque and, finally, the Col du Tourmalet at 2100 metres, one of the iconic climbs at the Tour de France.

The stage will still start in Biescas, near the border, but it will stay nearby and finish  atop Aramón Formigal, scene of one of the great Vuelta heists when Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador combined to put Chris Froome to the sword with a long-distance raid in 2016. In fact, the new parcours is am almost exact replica of that famous day.

The new 146.4km stage still features three climbs but pales in comparison to the Portalet-Aubisque-Tourmalet menu, with a comparatively meagre – but still considerable – 3,040 metres of elevation gain.

The first climb is the category-3 Alto de Petralba, followed by the category-2 Alto de Cotefablo, and they’ll head back into Biescas before taking on the climb to Formigal, which itself isn’t so difficult. The road climbs for 27km from Biescas but official climb is 14.6km at an average gradient of 4.6 per cent.

“We have to be grateful for the collaboration we’ve had with the French authorities and localities, and we hope that when things are back to normal we can repeat a stage which I believe is one of the best we could present on a Vuelta route," said Guillén.

“That said, we’ll still have a great stage on the 25th. The Vuelta won’t be stopping. We’ll have 146km, starting in Biescas and finishing at Aramon Formigal, with three climbs and a first-category summit finish.

"It’s a stage that fits perfectly, because a mountain stage is substituted by a mountain stage. We know we’re going to maintain the spectacle that the riders have so brilliantly given us so far.”

vuelta 2020 stage 6 new

The new profile for stage 6 of the Vuelta a España (Image credit: Unipublic)

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.