It’s a bit early to get fully into the hype around the Tour of Spain 2019. After all, it’s the third Grand Tour of the year and won’t kick off until August 24, 2019. That said, the official route’s just been unveiled and we simply can’t suppress our enthusiasm.
The Tour of Spain 2019 is tough
The Tour of Spain (Vuelta a España) route builders have set out a very challenging course, just like they did in 2018. While in the first week of the Tour de France we’ll be watching rather dull sprint stages, the general classification in the Vuelta a España will already be shaken up in the first few days. The race begins with an 18km team time trial. On day two there are already some second-category climbs. The final climb in the second stage is 25km before the finish line which will, in theory, give the sprinters time to get back to the front. But they’ll have to work for it. In stages three and four, the sprinters have free rein.
In stage five, it’s all hands on deck for teams with ambitions for the general classification (GC). The stage finishes on a mountain-top with a gradient of about 10%. And even on paper, that looks like fireworks.
Mas de la Costa
This is the first in a trio of exciting stages. Stages six and seven also end with climbs. Stage six on a third category climb and stage seven on the Mas de la Costa. The Mas de la Costa is a climb of only 4km but it includes stretches with gradients of 21%. Excitement guaranteed.
Nairo Quintana on the Mas de la Costa in 2017. Photo Cor Vos.
A mad Sunday
Stage eight will feel to a lot of riders like a rest day, with a couple of small hills and another chance for the sprinters. These very same sprinters will all retire during stage nine, when the peloton will have to get in over five climbs in less than 100km. This stage will be ridden on a Sunday and offers the perfect excuse for staying home all day to watch the action.
After that hellish ride it’s the first official rest day in the 2019 Tour of Spain. It’s time for the riders to lick their wounds. But not for long. Stage ten is time for the GC contenders to show what they’re capable of during a 36km time trial. The rest of the week appears to comprise stages most suited to attackers. The stages have a few hills, but nothing mountainous. This is not the case for stage 15, on September 8. This 160km stage features four humungous climbs and a finish atop the Sanctuario de la Virgen del Acebo, which has an average gradient of about 10%.
Alto de la Cubilla
You’d think that after such a beastly stage, the riders would have earned a rest day. But no, clearly the organisers thought otherwise. The following day another mountain stage’s been planned: five ascents and a mountain-top finish on the Alto de la Cubilla, new for the Vuelta. It’s 26km and has an average gradient of some 5%.
After all this madness, it unfortunately appears (on paper at least) that the final stages of the Tour of Spain 2019 will be a bit of a let-down. There are five stages during the final week, of which the last is the obligatory criterium in Madrid. Of the remaining four, two have been clearly set aside for the sprinters (at least, those who have survived the mountains) and the remaining two are hill stages. But one of them has its final climb around 30km before the finish line and the second ends on a third-category climb. Considering the madness of the first two weeks, it could go out like a damp squib. So it’s all down to the first two weeks. But we still can’t wait for the action!