Vuelta a España 2024 route revealed

Only 34km of time trialling to balance out a line-up of stout mountain stages in the Spanish Grand Tour

Clock09:21, Wednesday 20th December 2023
The route of the 2024 Vuelta a España

© Unipublic / Vuelta a España

The route of the 2024 Vuelta a España

The course for the 2024 Vuelta a España will feature nine summit finishes, just 34km of time trialling, limited opportunities for sprinters and no stages over 200km.

The full 3,261km route of the third Grand Tour of the season, which was unveiled in a presentation in Madrid on Tuesday night, will begin on August 17 in Lisbon, Portugal and end on September 8 in Madrid. While the precise number of climbing metres was not revealed, the profiles of the stages look like the race will be high on climbing, but low on the high altitude ascents.

Additionally, the course unveiled by race organisers Unipublic offers a few Vuelta staples, like the Lagos de Covadonga, which is historically the most used climb in the Vuelta. Once again, the Vuelta a España is opting for an unconventional selection of stages, with only one stage listed as having a flat parcours. The rest range from hilly, to medium mountains and finally to the major mountains that will define the GC fight of the race.

Read more: Tour de France 2024 route revealed

What’s more, the Vuelta also has rolled out another crucial ambush-style mountain day. After the success of the sawtooth parcours of 2023's most explosive days, the organisers will hope stage 20 with its seven categorised climbs and a steep summit finish to Picón Blanco can provide a last-minute surprise in the fight for the overall standings.

In total, there are three new summit finishes: Yunquera on stage 6, Sierra de Cazorla on stage 8 and a new finish on the Puerto de Ancares on stage 13. While the first two finishes are category 3 climbs that might produce some time gaps, the new finish on the Puerto de Ancares, with its incredibly steep, extended ramps, will be one that could break open the race near the end of the second week.

Another climb that is not a well-trodden path for the race is the fearsome Cuitu Negru coming on stage 15. Weighing in at 19km and with a number of pitches up to 25%, it is a beast of a climb. While it has only been used once before at the Vuelta, it left a mark, with the Italian rider Dario Cataldo, the winner of that day, describing the climb as the steepest he ever rode.

Read more: Giro d'Italia 2024 route revealed

Beyond the mountain stages, whether they be new or used, the route of the Vuelta is one that will ultimately have opportunities for everyone.

There is only one stage listed as flat, but five other days have undulations and won’t get in the way of a durable sprinter making it to the finish.

Yet, even with some sprints lined up on paper, make no mistake: this Vuelta is designed for the climbers. Especially with only 34km of time trialling in total - 12km on stage 1 in Lisbon and 22km on stage 21 in Madrid.

Compared to the 62km of time trials in the Giro d’Italia and the 60km of time trials in the Tour de France, the Vuelta will be seen in a loving light by the pure climbers.

With the race tilted in the favour of the climbers, last year’s winner Sepp Kuss will be delighted with the offering, as he has stated how much he would like to return to the Vuelta with eyes of defending his crown. Other riders who could view the course rich in climbing and light on time trials in a positive light could be Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, Enric Mas or even Felix Gall, all of whom have seen time trials stand in the way of GC contention, to a varying degree.

Week 1: A swing through the south of Spain

The 2024 Vuelta a España is an all-Iberian affair with the opening weekend taking place in Portugal for the first time since 1997. With a strong contingent of Portuguese riders in the WorldTour, excitement will be high at the start and Lisbon will offer a glorious canvas for the race to get underway before heading to Spain in an overland transfer for the rest of the race.

Read more: Transfer mechanics: Age is just a number for Rui Costa

Even if the start in Portugal is akin to the Tour de France starting in its neighbour country in Italy this June, the Portugal start will be a much easier affair. The 12km TT through Lisbon will be technical and establish the pecking order amongst the GC riders, but the next two stages will most likely be sprint finishes.

Once in Spain, the fireworks will begin in earnest with the race's first summit finish coming on stage 4 up to Pico Villuercas. The finish is far from the toughest of the race, but with 3km towards the finish having successive pitches between 15-16%, time gaps will appear between the GC favourites. While the red jersey will likely be handed out to a breakaway rider and not a true-blue GC contender given the two categorised climbs earlier in the day, it will be the first indicator of the climbing strength amongst the Vuelta’s contenders.

An out-and-out sprint day on stage 5 to Seville follows, before stage 6 takes on the new finish of the Yunquera climb. While it is only a category 3 ascent, Primož Roglič has shown over the years how profitable they can be with time bonuses available at the end of them.

Another couple of days of could-be sprints come on stage 7 and stage 8, with stage 8 having a kick to the line similar to that of stage 6. The mountains return on stage 9 to close the first week. Even though it doesn't end on a climb, the stage finishing in Grenada has three successive ascents that will provide a demanding stage and could create gaps in the overall standings. The chief challenge is the Alto de Hazallanas which will feature twice in the last 70km of the stage. The climb is one that featured in the race in 2022, but was followed by a climb up to the high altitude of Sierra Nevada. This year, the race instead heads down to Grenada for a sprint finish. The result could be fireworks or could be a stalemate amongst the GC favourites before the first rest day.

Week 2: Into the teeth of the race

The first rest day will take the peloton from the arid southern sierras to the lush northeast of Galicia. Three stages for the breakaway are likely to follow, as stages 10, 11 and 12 are all rolling to medium-mountainous affairs, with GC activity unlikely.

That will probably change come stage 13 up to Puerto de Ancares (7.7km, 9.9%). The drawn-out battle between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome on stage 20 of the 2014 Vuelta shows just how crucial the mountain can be.

Read more: ‘Geraint Thomas proves that age isn’t a factor,’ says a resilient Chris Froome

Stage 14 is a bit of a medium-mountain pallet cleanser, with a long grind up the Puerto de Leitariegos (23km, 4%) coming before a downhill finish to one of the Vuelta’s longest days. Even if the GC battle will likely take a pause on stage 14, the day will hurt the legs before the crucial last stage of the second week and the challenge of the Cuitu Negru (25.5km, 5.8% with max gradients of 23%) on stage 15.

Week 3: a classic crescendo

While the challenges of stage 13 and stage 15 might be less-trodden turf for the Vuelta, the third week begins where the Vuelta has gone many times before, with a finish on Lagos de Covadonga (12.5km, 7%) coming on stage 16.

The last time the race took on the climb was in 2021 and was the scene of a Primož Roglič raid on a damp day in the mountains. That day, the Slovenian attacked with Egan Bernal and didn’t look back, eventually dropping Bernal, before soloing to a win and the red jersey. While stage 16 might not live up to that day from three years ago, the climb will be circled in the road books of all the GC contenders.

Read more: Adam Yates, Vine, Sivakov, Almeida all eye up Vuelta a España as UAE Team Emirates place Grand Tour pawns

Stage 17 and 18 are transitional days before the last three crucial stages sort the final general classification. Stage 17 offers a final chance for the sprinters as the race takes on two category climbs early in the stage before a flat final 50km to the finish. Stage 18 is a more rolling affair, with a category 2 climb and a category 1 climb coming in the middle of the 175km stage. A breakaway is more likely than not to decide the day.

Stage 19 begins the final section of the race, with the first of a pair of mountain stages that will give a final shakeup to the standings before the final time trial on stage 21 will crown the victor. The stage is a simple parcours of 168km from Lograño to Alto de Moncalvillo, with two categorised climbs. The second, however, up the Alto de Moncalvillo (8.2km, 9%) is a brute.

Stage 20 is even more challenging, with a daunting succession of climbs stacked one after the other on the final road stage of the race. In total, seven categorised climbs come in quick succession in the 170km stage. The stage, which tackles the tough roads of the Burgos and Cantabria regions, culminates in the final charge up the Picón Blanco.

The climb, which is an institution at the Vuelta a Burgos, will be the last word for the climbers in the race, but it will not be the final decision. It will be the final time trial in Madrid that will provide the last manoeuvring amongst the contenders. However, at 22km in length, it will only be the final polish to the race that will have unfolded over the previous three weeks.

Vuelta a España 2024 stages

Stage 1: Lisbon - Oeiras | 12km | ITT

Stage 2: Cascais - Ourém | 191km | Hilly

Stage 3: Lousã - Castelo Branco | 191km | Hilly

Stage 4: Plasencia - Pico Villuercas | 167km | Mountain

Stage 5: Fuente del Maestre - Sevilla | 170km | Flat

Stage 6: Carrefour Sur, Jerez de la Frontera - Yuquera | 181km | Mountain

Stage 7: Archidona - Córdoba | 179km | Hilly

Stage 8: Ubeda - Cazorla | 159km | Medium Mountains

Stage 9: Motril - Grenada | 178km | Mountain

REST DAY 1 - Monday, 26 August

Stage 10: Ponteareas - Baiona | 160km | Mountain

Stage 11: Campus Tecnologico Cortizo, Padrón - Campus Tecnologico Cortizo, Padrón | 164km | Medium Mountains

Stage 12: Ourense Termal - Estacion de Montaña de Manzaneda | 137km | Hilly

Stage 13: Lugo - Puerto de Ancares | 171km | Mountain

Stage 14: Villafranca del Bierzo - Villalino | 199km | Medium Mountains

Stage 15: Infiesto - Valgrande-Pajares, Ctitu Negru | 142km | Mountain

REST DAY 2 - Monday, 2 September

Stage 16: Luanco - Lagos de Covadonga | 181km | Mountain

Stage 17: Monumento Juan de Castillo, Arnuero - Santander | 143km | Medium Mountains

Stage 18: Vitoria-Gasteiz - Maeztu-Parque Natural de Izki | 175km | Medium Mountains

Stage 19: Logroño - Alto de Moncalvillo | 168km | Hilly (uphill final)

Stage 20: Villarcayo - Picón Blanco | 171km | Mountain

Stage 21: Distrito Telefónica, Madrid - Madrid | 22km | ITT

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