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Vuelta a España 2020: Stage 1 preview

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Stage 1 profile 2020 Vuelta a Espana

Profile stage 1 (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Map stage 1 2020 Vuelta a Espana

Map stage 1 (Image credit: Unipublic)

Stage 1: Irún to Arrate. Eibar

Date: October 20, 2020

Distance: 173km

Stage start: 1:11 pm CEST

Stage finish: 5:15-5:45 pm

Stage type: Hilly

The 75th edition of the Vuelta a España was due to start in the Netherlands, but its three-day sojourn there was cancelled in April as a result of the health crisis created by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Reduced to 18 stages as a consequence of this decision, the race now begins in the Basque Country, with a typically undulating stage through that region, culminating with a finish on the Arrate climb above Eibar that’s generally one of the central features of the Tour of the Basque Country.

Stage 1 gets underway in the border town of Irun. Fernando Escartín, route directeur for the Vuelta, has opted against going for a full-on 173km Basque rollercoaster of a day, choosing instead to stick on flatter roads close to the coast, at least at the start. The riders will enter terrain that’s a little more rugged at around halfway, tackling the first of three consecutive third-category climbs, the Puerto de Udana.

Turning west to pass through Oñati, the route’s next ascent is the Alto de Kanpazar, beyond which the riders will drop into Eibar for the first time. The intermediate sprint at Bergara marks the beginning of a tricky 25km finale, commencing with the climb of the Alto de Elgeta. Cresting it, the route drops back into Eibar to arrive at the foot of the final test, the first-category Alto de Arrate.

Its 7.7 per cent average gradient belies its difficulty. The first couple of kilometres leaving Eibar aren’t steep and it plateaus at the top. In between, though, it averages close to 10 per cent for three kilometres with sections on its tight hairpins at 16 per cent. Alejandro Valverde won atop it the last time the Vuelta came this way in 2012, and took a second success here five years later in the Tour of the Basque Country. On that race’s last visit in 2019, Emanuel Buchmann claimed victory. In short, the Arrate is very likely to launch the Vuelta’s best climbers to the fore, especially the punchier ones.

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