CyclingPub’s Guide to the 2018 Vuelta a España
Aug 23 2018 03:45 pm CET

CyclingPub’s Guide to the 2018 Vuelta a España
CyclingPub’s Guide to the 2018 Vuelta a España
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The 73rd edition of the Vuelta a España kicks off on the 23rd of August in the city of Malaga, in the south of Spain. The route of the race is to be the toughest one of the 2018 grand tours, particularly when it is about climbs.

History

The youngest of the Grand Tours had its first edition in 1935 and was organised by the newspaper Informaciones. At the start line, there were 50 riders, 32 of which were Spanish, and only 29 could finish the race after ten stages of more than 250 kilometres each. The Belgian Gustaaf Deloor was the winner of the race and the first rider ever to wear the (then) orange shirt that made him stand out on the peloton.

By the time the second edition of La Vuelta was set to start, the political climate in the country was already unsettled but that didn't stop the organisation from going forward with it. In this edition, 53 riders started and only 26 finished, and Deloor was crowned once more as the victor of the race.

The Spanish Civil War stopped the race from happening until 1941 when it resumed with mostly local riders taking part. The winner was Julian Barrendero, who got to wear a White shirt that replaced the orange one, and it was the first edition to include a time trial, which was won by Delio Rodriguez who would later take the victory of the race in 1945.

The organisation of the race was unstable in the next years and that, added to the war climate in Europe stopped the Vuelta until 1955. The sixties were the decade in which the race started to gain international relevance with the participation of riders like Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Rik van Looy and Jan Janssen.

In the seventies, the race became more visible due to television coverage. Riders like Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Freddy Maertens took part and added it to their own particular legends. With the arrival of the eighties, more icons started in the race and it took more relevance in the world of cycling.

Sean Kelly, Pedro Delgado, Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra increased their own statuses and that of the Vuelta, but in that decade there was also the first case of a title being stripped because of doping: Angel Arroyo was disqualified and Marino Lejarreta got the win instead.

With the 00's the Spanish dominance returned to the race and riders like Roberto Heras, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde took the final victories while others like Carlos Sastre, Samuel Sanchez and Ezequiel Mosquera also put their names in the history books of the race following their strong performances.

After 2010

The organisation of the race decided to include more mountain finishes and steep climbs that increased the attention not only from the public but from the cyclists as well. These editions have had the presence of international stars, some of them looking for the challenge of riding it after finishing the Tour de France.

The inclusion of climbs like La Camperona, Ancares, Santuario de la Virgen de Alba, Cumbre del Sol, and Zubia, adding to those like Xorret de Cati and Caravaca de la Cruz, included new and exciting fights that have been the strong point of this race over the other grand tours and have attracted star riders like Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin, Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Bradley Wiggins, among many others.

Winners from 2010:

2010: Vincenzo Nibali
2011: Juanjo Cobo
2012: Alberto Contador
2013: Chris Horner
2014: Alberto Contador
2015: Fabio Aru
2016: Nairo Quintana
2017: Chris Froome

Route

First week

The first stage of the 2018 Vuelta a España is a 8-kilometre long time trial that kicks off from the Centre Pompidou in Malaga and is mostly flat but with a steep inclination halfway.

The riders will start testing their legs from the second day of racing when they tackle a mostly flat route that does feature one climb of the second category and three of the third category, including an uphill finish at which riders like Esteban Chaves have tasted glory in the past.

The third stage runs between Mijas and Alhaurin de la Torre over a medium mountain route that starts with a first category climb to the Puerto del Madroño and includes another climb of the third category to finish on a flat stretch that will likely make it suitable for a fast finish. The next day, the riders will start in Malaga and face two first category climbs, one at 66 kilometres into the stage, and a mountain finish at the Sierra de la Alfaguara.

The fifth stage starts in Granada and finishes in Roquetas de Mar at the Mediterranean and has a medium mountain route that includes one third-category climb, one of the second category and a downhill finish at the coastal city. The next three stages offer opportunities for the sprinters before facing the first real mountain climbing day.

The ninth stage will take the riders between Talavera de la Reina and the ski resort of La Covatilla over a course that features one climb of the third category, one of the second, one of the first and a mountain finish on a hors-category ascent to the Alto de la Covatilla that has an inclination of up to 12%. The General Classification will start taking shape on this stage before the first rest day in Salamanca.

Second week

The second week starts in the north-west of Spain, close to the border with Portugal with a flat stage that is set to finish in a bunch sprint. Stage 11 will have a hilly profile with an inclination of 7.5% close to the end and a false flat final stretch in which some GC riders could lose seconds, while the 12th stage will also be hilly with an arrival in the Faro de Estaca de Bares, the northernmost point of Spain, on a day in which the breakaway could have good luck till the end.

The next three stages will play a role in the general classification and give opportunities for climbers that are looking for their individual victories. The 13th will have a final at the already iconic La Camperona but before that, the peloton will face one climb of the third category and one of the first category, and then head to a final first category ascent of 8.3 kilometres that has a maximum inclination of 19.5% ahead of the last kilometre.

Stage 14 is the second of the three-day Asturias-Leon challenge and has an arrival at the Alto Les Praeres. The profile of the route features two climbs of the first category, one of the second, one of the third and three ascents of the first category, including a final at the Alto Les Praeres - Nava with slopes that reach 17%.

The last stage of the week has Lagos de Covadonga as its finishing point, where riders like Pedro Delgado have taken a moment of glory. This stage is set to be one of the toughest of the race, with an accumulated inclination of over 4000 metres. The hors-category mountain finish has slopes of up to 20% and features a descent in the last ten kilometres leading to a climbing finale.

Week three

After the second rest day in Santander, in the north-east of Spain, the peloton faces the second time trial of the race between Santillana del Mar and Torrelavega that will take place over a 32.7 course. The 17th stage of the race has a hilly profile that includes an unprecedented finish at the Alto del Balcón de Bizkaia, a 7.3 kilometre-long climb at 4.3%, but also has a stretch that reaches a stunning 23.83%.

Stage 18 will be a flat stage and likely the last chance for the sprinters before the Madrid showdown, and before heading to Andorra for the stages that will confirm the winner of the Vuelta. The 19th stage will have an almost entirely flat route until the finale, a first category climb to the Coll de la Rabassa. The 20th day of competition will be the shortest of the regular stages at 105.8 kilometres and the riders will face a route that includes three climbs of the first category and a hors-category finish on the Coll de la Gallina of 3.5 kilometres and slopes of 8.7%. The stage has the potential of making riders win or lose the race, particularly after all the accumulation of kilometres and climbs in the legs.

The last day will feature the traditional celebratory stage that arrives in Madrid and that is the last day for the sprinters to show themselves.

Favourites

The 73rd edition of the Vuelta a España will have many competitors that have the potential of winning. Some come from injuries while others want to redeem themselves after failing at other grand tours, so we are up for a good fight.

After crashing out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone, Richie Porte is the big favourite to take the victory of the race. The Australian has had back luck in the past when he looked like a potential winner and the Spanish grand tour can be his opportunity to win his first big race.

Simon Yates showed a strong performance at the 2018 Giro d'Italia, with two stage wins and 13 days in Pink, but the race proved to be too long for the Briton. At the Vuelta, he can take opportunities at the climbs and will have the support of his twin brother Adam, which could make a difference at the end.

After failing in his objective of winning the Tour de France, Nairo Quintana will be looking for redemption at the Spanish race, in which he had already taken one overall victory. The Colombian will attempt to test his form from the beginning, after showing good performances in the last week at the Tour de France.

Miguel Angel Lopez has shown his potential of performing at the climbs and though he lacks the experience as a leader in a grand tour, he could put up a surprise and fight for the general classification. He just finished an outstanding Vuelta a Burgos in which he lost the overall victory at the last moment and was second in the mountain classification, in a season in which he had already topped the Young Classification standings at the Giro d'Italia.

Alejandro Valverde is the second captain of Movistar and also has one Vuelta a España victory on his palmares. Though it is expected of him to help his teammate Quintana, he has shown outstanding performances in the 2018 season with victories in races like the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, the Volta a Catalunya and the Abu Dhabi Tour.

After his bad performance at the Giro d'Italia, Fabio Aru is another of the riders that start at the Vuelta a España hoping to find their better shape. The 2015 winner of the race could make a difference if he finds the strength in his legs and he will have the company of Dan Martin, who could also fight for the GC if the conditions allow it.

The injuries of a crash took Rigoberto Uran out of the Tour de France and after finishing sixth at the Clasica San Sebastian, he wants to attempt a good GC performance again.

Vincenzo Nibali has just finished his recovery of the vertebral fracture he sustained at a fall at the Tour de France. Even though the Italian is finding his good shape again and has stated that his main objective is to prepare for the World Championships, he has the potential of showing a surprise performance at the race.

Favourites for the General Classification

*****Richie Porte, Simon Yates, Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel Lopez
****Alejandro Valverde, Fabio Aru, Rigoberto Uran, Vincenzo Nibali
***Wilco Kelderman, Thibaut Pinot, David de la Cruz, George Bennett
**Ilnur Zakarin, Dan Martin, Bauke Mollema, Michal Kwiatkowski

Favourites for the Points Classification

Elia Viviani, Peter Sagan, Matteo Trentin, Alejandro Valverde, Giacomo Nizzolo, Nacer Bouhanni, Danny van Poppel, Michal Kwiatkowski.

Favourites for the Mountain Classification

Miguel Angel Lopez, Omar Fraile, Rafal Majka, Nairo Quintana, Richie Porte, Thomas De Gendt, Steven Kruijswijk, Sepp Kuss.

Favourites for the Young rider classification

Miguel Angel Lopez, Ivan Garcia, Laurens De Plus, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Enric Mas, Sepp Kuss, Amanuel Gebreigzabhier, Tiesj Benoot, Jack Haig, Richard Carapaz.

By Mary Cárdenas
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