Vuelta a España 2020

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Stage 18 recap

Stage 18 at the Vuelta a España brought an end to the final Grand Tour of the season with a photo-finish sprint between Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) on the streets of Madrid, with race officials awarding the stage win to Ackermann.

Apart from the action on the city circuits, the 139.6km race between Hipódromo de la Zarzuela and Madrid was largely a celebratory affair with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) wrapping up the overall classification in the mountainous stage the day before. 

Jumbo-Visma and Roglič celebrated with a glasses of champagne after rolling off the start, while also riding side-by-side for photo opportunities. The opening kilometres also saw Roglič receiving congratulations from several other riders racing for rival teams.

The Slovenian officially sealed the title in Madrid, winning the overall race by 24 seconds over runner-up Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and 1:15 ahead of Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling).

The new-look Vuelta a España was reduced to 18 stages for 2020, taking place from October 20 to November 8, all thanks to the massive rescheduling of the road racing calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the major names taking part in the race, from defending champion Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma), Chris Froome (Ineos Grenadiers), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo Visma), and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama) all in the race for the overall title. 

The 2020 Vuelta a España also represents Chris Froome's final race at Ineos before he makes the switch to Israel Star-Up Nation in 2021.

Race Route

In April, the Vuelta organisers cancelled the planned start in the Netherlands and rerouted the Spanish Grand Tour to the Basque Country, beginning with the Grand Depart from Irun to Arrate as stage 1 rather than the originally designed stage 4. The first day of racing now ends with a climb of the Alto de Arrate – a second-category ascent beginning in Eibar, which is 7.2km long with an average 6.2 per cent gradient.

In early summer, two stages in Portugal were removed from the route due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the course rerouted to stay in Spain. The 2020 Vuelta was due to visit Portugal for the first time since the race started there in 1997, with a third-week stage finish in Porto and a start the following day in the nearby town of Viseu. The finish of stage 16 in Porto will now be in Puebla de Sanabria and the start of stage 17 will now be in Salamanca.

Of the existing race days with changes, stage 15 will now be the longest stage at 230km in length. This winding route from Mos to Puebla de Sanabria offers up five third-category climbs. Speaking of climbing, this year’s Vuelta will serve up a total of 47 categorised climbs. 

The second week of the 2020 Vuelta is arguably the toughest, with a summit finish on the Alto de la Farrapona on stage 11, where Alberto Contador effectively sealed victory in the 2014 Vuelta ahead of Chris Froome, while the next day's stage 12 finishes on the fearsome Alto de l'Angliru, where Contador won his final race as a professional in 2017.

The Vuelta's third week begins with the race's lone individual time trial – a 33.7km test for stage 13 from Muros to Mirador de Ézaro following the rest day, which finishes with a two-kilometre haul up the 1.5km climb to the Ézaro dam, which reaches pitches up to 28 per cent. The battle for the red jersey will not be decided until the final weekend, where a summit finish at the Alto de la Covatilla provides the climax to the penultimate stage. The 2020 Vuelta concludes with a flat run into Madrid that should favour the sprinters.

Race favourites

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was an emphatic winner of the 2019 Vuelta. The Slovenian seized the red jersey with a dominant display in the Pau time trial, before defending his advantage in the mountains and in the echelons of the final week. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) placed second, while Roglič’s fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) rounded out the podium after winning a hat-trick of mountain stages in what was his maiden Grand Tour.

This year Roglic returns to defend his crown. Valverde is joined by his Movistar teammate Enric Mas - who was second in 2018  - while there's also a strong contingent from Ineos Grenadiers, who arrive with both Chris Froome and Richard Carapaz.

Pogacar is missing from the race after winning the Tour de France in 2020 but there a number of other potential contenders on the start line with Wout Poels, Daniel Martin, Davide Formolo, Alexander Vlasov, and Michael Woods all taking part. 

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