Vuelta a España 2020: Stage 2 preview

Stage 2: Pamplona to Lekunberri

Date: October 21, 2020

Distance: 151.6km

Start time: 1:49 pm CEST

Stage finish: 5:20-5:45 pm

Stage type: Hilly

Starting in Navarra’s main city, this 151.6km stage almost replicates the Vuelta’s opener, with one fewer third-category climb prior to a challenging category 1 test at the finale. From Pamplona, the route heads west towards the first of those third cats, the Alto de Guirguillano.

From that pass, the riders will drop to around 500 metres and remain at that altitude for close to 50 kilometres. They will then tackle the 9.2km ascent of the Puerto de Urbasa, which averages 4.7 per cent. Having descended to Olatzi, they’ll turn due east and begin the most critical part of the stage.

The intermediate sprint arrives in Arbizu, just before the climb starts to the sanctuary of San Miguel de Aralar. The Vuelta last travelled up the road to the sanctuary in 2014, when Fabio Aru was the stage winner at the summit.

The first category climb extends to 9.4km, averaging 7.9 per cent, so it’s a significant test. It’s made even more challenging as the road has been built using long concrete slabs, their surface slightly rippled to provide grip. However, in wet conditions, it’s extremely hard to maintain traction on any kind of concrete road, and especially one like this with frequent changes of gradient.

The slope is fierce almost from the off, with ramps well into double figures in the opening kilometre. A little further on, there is the best part of two kilometres at 10 per cent, the gradient then easing to a much more amenable 6-7 per cent until the final two kilometres, where the road rises far more abruptly once again.

There are likely to be gaps between the GC contenders, which should ensure the subsequent 17km descent to the finish in Lekunberri is a fascinating spectacle. It will be interesting to see how the duel between the breakaway group and the peloton plays out as well. Coming in between two first-category summit finishes, the Vuelta favourites may be happy to give the escapees some leeway today.

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