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Vuelta a España 2022 stage 4 preview - A puncheur uphill finish

Stage 4: Vitoria-Gasteiz - Laguardia

Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Distance: 152.5km

Stage timing: 13:40-17:30 CEST

Stage type: Hilly

Following three days in the Netherlands and an early rest day, the Vuelta a España returns to home soil on Tuesday for a 152.5km hilly route from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia. Expect the Basque fans to line the route as the race visits three Basque provinces over its three weeks for the first time since 2012.  And it has been over half a century since the race has visited Laguardia, last in 1967.

The start in the capital of the region last hosted a Vuelta stage two years ago and is a familiar host from Itzulia Basque Country. The mediaeval city centre sits on a hill with a fortified wall above the Zadorra River and overlooks the high mountain peaks to come.

The peloton faces rolling terrain for the first 50 kilometres, after which the ups and downs across Álava begin. The route includes two KOM climbs, the second-category Puerto de Opakua (5 kilometres at 6.9%) and after 68km of punchy climbing the third-category Puerto de Herrera (7.3 kilometres at 4.8%) arrives. The Herrera mountain pass comes with just 15km to the finish and should provide a launching pad for riders to the sharp kick in the final 800 metres of the race, which tops out at close to 10%.

Profile for stage 4 of 2022 Vuelta a España

(Image credit: Vuelta a España)

Uphill finish favourites

The route from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia is well suited to the defending world champion, Julian Alaphilippe

Recent history is on the Frenchman's side, too, given that Alaphilippe took a memorable victory this spring in Itzulia in the nearby town of Viana on very similar terrain, with none other than Evenepoel providing the leadout. With more than 2,000 meters of vertical climbing but just two classified climbs, the likelihood of a reduced bunch sprint or battle between a small breakaway deciding the stage on the tricky but short uphill finish are surely as high as they were this April.

Among the GC favourites, barring Roglič, it's harder to pick out a name who might be a rival to Alaphilippe. The climb is probably not tough enough for fast mountain-top finishers like Ineos leader Richard Carapaz, Astana's Miguel Angel López or Bora's Sergio Higuita. But nobody will want to be too far back and risk getting caught out by late crashes or splits, so trying simply to stay out of trouble is not really an option.

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