The 2022 Vuelta a España is well underway and the first summit finish of this year’s edition takes place in stage six this afternoon.
Spain’s Grand Tour is well known for its brutally steep climbs and scorching hot afternoons. On stage four Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) showed that he’s ready for a fight when the road goes uphill and may go one further this afternoon with another stage win.
Jumbo-Visma passed the red jersey around between them like it was a rugby ball earlier this week. Yesterday, the Dutch team handed over the overall lead to Rudy Molard of Groupama-FDJ, although it surely won’t be for long.
Ineos Grenadiers have several riders in the top 10 places in the overall standings including Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorean is due to depart the team for pastures new next season and may well look to make a statement of intent on the summit finishes in the coming days.
If you want to catch all the expected action in the general classification (GC) at the Vuelta, we recommend reading up on how to watch the Vuelta for when the race reaches these climbs.
STAGE SIX: PICO DEL JANO
This afternoon’s test in the heart of Cantabria will be the first serious test for the GC contenders. Roglič may have landed the first blow earlier in the week although this afternoon will more than likely play out differently.
Pico del Jano is making its Vuelta debut and is expected to cause fireworks. The climb is 12.6 kilometres long averaging a 6.6% gradient with an absolutely savage 14.6% in the final 600 metres. All of that combined makes this afternoon’s stage one for the pure climbers.
If the likes of Carapaz, Evenepoel or Jai Hindley aren’t on top form then they could seriously lose out in the final few metres alone. If the GC battle doesn’t materialise then the Pico del Jano could provide an enthralling battle between the breakaway.
STAGE EIGHT: COLLAU FANCUAYA
Asturias in the North West of Spain is home of the mythical Alto de l’Angliru, or the “Angry Lou” if you’re from Lancashire and your name is Hugh Carthy.
Even though the Angliru won’t feature in this year’s race, the riders will visit the Collau Fancuaya in this region on stage eight.
The climb is bound to cause some time gaps. Roughly four kilometres into the mountain is where the pain will really start to come, particularly when the riders reach the 19% section. However once they’ve passed that truly terrifying section it’s still far from over. With half of the mountain still to climb whoever is on the attack will need to manage their effort to ensure they don’t blow up in the final section. The final half continues at gradients mostly over 9% making it a truly horrendous climb to tackle in a bike race.
STAGE 14: SIERRA DE LA PANDERA
Stage 14 opens two successive difficult days of climbing. The Sierra de la Pandera is a really challenging climb and has featured in the race on multiple occasions.
Similar to the Colle delle Finestre of Giro d’Italia fame, the Pandera is the kind of climb where it’s impossible to sustain a steady rhythm on uneven surfaces and killer gradients. The climb averages 7.8% for more than eight kilometres although before reaching the start, the riders will need to take on the category two Puerto de los Villares. That climb lasts for 10.4 kilometres before they then move onto the Pandera making it one of the longest climbs at this year’s race.
By the end of the afternoon, it’s likely that there will be some huge winners and losers in the overall battle.
STAGE 15: SIERRA NEVADA
Sierra Nevada comes hot on the heels of a horrendous stage 14 in Andalusia. The area largely resembles a cowboy film set and is predominantly hot and dry which will only add to the suffering inflicted in the peloton.
At 2,521 metres above sea level, the climb is the highest point of this year’s race and it’s also the longest at a leg-sapping 19.3 kilometres. All of this combined makes it the only mountain to be assigned the ‘especial’ category by the race organisers.
Miguel Ángel López won the last time the race visited the mountain range and will be fired up for this one. ‘Superman’ knows what it takes to pull off victory on some of the biggest occasions and won’t fear the altitude on stage 15. Richard Carapaz will be another rider to watch in the fight for the red jersey.
STAGE 20: PUERTO DE CORTOS
Whilst the overall battle is expected to be over after the Sierra Nevada stage, stage 20 could provide one final hurrah for anyone close to the podium or even the overall lead.
In the rearranged 2020 edition of the Vuelta in the Covid-19 affected season, David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) won the final mountain stage. Although the real drama occurred behind the Frenchman further down the mountain.
Richard Carapaz was sitting close to Primož Roglič in the overall standings and launched one final attack looking to snatch the jersey from the Slovenian. If the overall leader doesn’t have a big enough gap on the penultimate stage of this year’s race then we may see a similar occurrence on the Puerto de Cortos.
There are five climbs in total on stage 20, the most difficult being the final two. Whilst they don’t compare with some of the summits that feature earlier in the race, they will still be just as damaging.
The Puerto de Cortos is 10.3 kilometres in length with average gradients of around 8%. Whilst on paper that may not seem particularly fearsome, it comes at the end of a three Grand-Tour top heavy with climbing and consequently could provide some final chaos on the run into Madrid.
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Tom is a Digital News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly.
Before joining the Cycling Weekly team, he worked at Oxford Brookes University, most recently in the Internal Communications team. An avid cycling follower with a keen interest in racing, his writing previously featured on Casquettes and Bidons.
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