2022 will see the seventh edition of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, a Women’s WorldTour race run by A.S.O, the organisers of the men’s Vuelta a España. Unlike the men’s peloton who race for three weeks, the women’s event spans five days and begins on the 7th of September 2022.
While it’s a long way off being classified as a Grand Tour, the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta is an event which has been growing year on year. The first three editions were just a one-day race, until the organisation extended it to a two-day event in 2018 and 2019, before lengthening it to three days in 2020, four days in 2021, and five days in 2022. The route of the inaugural five-day event is exciting and varied, with opportunities for both climbers and sprinters. Like in the men’s Vuelta a España, the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta race kicks off with a team time trial in Marina de Cudeyo – a rarity in the women’s WorldTour – and this will determine who wears the first red jersey of the race.
Once the race against the clock is complete, the Vuelta organisers haven’t wasted any time in sending the riders to the mountains. Stage two takes in two first category climbs, so we will see the GC favourites emerge early on in the race. The third stage is a mountainous one too, while stage four is the longest in the event’s history with a summit finish after 160km. The race concludes with a sprint stage on the roads of Madrid, coinciding with the 21st stage of the men’s La Vuelta a España.
Last year’s edition of this race was won by Dutch climbing superstar Annemiek van Vleuten after she took victory in the ITT and on the third stage in the mountains. Van Vleuten is returning to defend her title at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2022, attempting to take victory and do the ‘triple’, as she has already won the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Tour de France Femmes so far this season. One of the only things that could hinder the Dutchwoman in her pursuit of a second consecutive Vuelta win is the opening TTT – Movistar are not known to be well-drilled in this discipline.
Here’s everything you need to know about the route of the 2022 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.
CERATIZIT CHALLENGE BY LA VUELTA 2022 – THE STAGES
CERATIZIT CHALLENGE BY LA VUELTA 2022, STAGE ONE (07/09): MARINA DE CUDEYO > MARINA DE CUDEYO TTT (19.9KM)
The opening stage of this year’s women’s Vuelta a España is a team time trial. These are a rare occurrence in both the men’s and women’s WorldTour calendars, so it’s an interesting move from ASO to put one in both editions of La Vuelta this year. So far this season, the only other WWT team trial has been the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden TTT which was won by American team Trek-Segafredo. Movistar finished down in tenth place – this doesn’t bode well for Annemiek van Vleuten’s GC ambitions at the Vuelta.
The route is flat and fast, but the main obstacle caused by team time trials is usually the technical element of the discipline. Navigating corners and keeping the team well-drilled is an important part of producing a good time at the end of the stage, and ensuring that everyone stays upright is another challenge. We can certainly expect some drama from this stage, especially as the first roja jersey will be up for grabs.
CERATIZIT CHALLENGE BY LA VUELTA 2022, STAGE TWO (08/09): COLINDRES > COLINDRES (105.9KM)
Those who were disappointed with their team’s performance in the TTT won’t have long to wait until they can gain time back in the general classification. Stage two of this year’s race is packed full with climbs throughout the entire route. The first is the Fuente las Varas, a 6.4km climb with an average gradient of 5.5%. A third category climb follows before the real tough gradients start to appear in the latter part of the stage.
The first category Campo Layal is 6km at an average of 6.1% gradient and a second, longer ascent of Fuente las Varas comes less than 20 kilometres later. The last climb of the day is Campo la Cruz which is 3.8km long with an average gradient of a whopping 8%. The riders then descend back to Colindres for the finish which is flat and fast. We can expect a very reduced peloton or a breakaway to come to the line here and there will definitely be general classification time gaps on stage two.
CERATIZIT CHALLENGE BY LA VUELTA 2022, STAGE THREE (09/09): CAMARGO > AGUILAR DE CAMPOO (96.4KM)
While stage three is referred to as ‘flat’ on the race’s website, there are still various obstacles that the sprinters will have to overcome if they want a shot at going for victory. The first is the third category Alto de Hijas, a 3.8km climb averaging 5.5% gradient. After the peloton have descended this climb, they will have to steadily ascend the Hoces de Barcena, a 16km climb with a 3.4% average gradient. It has a maximum gradient of 11%, so is by no means an easy feat for the sprinters in the bunch.
The route does flatten out at the top of the long climb with just over 30 kilometres remaining, which could give some of the faster riders a chance to regain contact with the group. The final kilometre of the stage is flat and the road is slightly downhill before this. It’s ideal terrain for a sprint finish, but the challenge for the fast women will be making it to this point in the stage.
CERATIZIT CHALLENGE BY LA VUELTA 2022, STAGE FOUR (10/09): PALENCIA > SEGOVIA (160KM)
Stage four is the longest of the race and is probably the easiest too. The roads are flat until just 2.4 kilometres remaining where the riders will contest the first, and only, summit finish of Certazit Challenge by La Vuelta in 2022. The ascent to the finish line in Segovia averages 3.9% with a maximum gradient of 7%. While it’s not the steepest climb in the race so far, it will be the perfect stage for an exciting summit finish where we can expect the puncheurs of the women’s peloton to come to the fore.
CERATIZIT CHALLENGE BY LA VUELTA 2022, STAGE FIVE (11/09): MADRID PAISAJE DE LA LUZ > MADRID PAISAJE DE LA LUZ (95.6KM)
The Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta comes to a head with hot laps around Madrid’s city centre. The peloton will take on 17 laps of a 5.6km circuit which is relatively flat – a 4% incline around 1 kilometre into the lap takes the riders up to the highest point before they then have to descend slightly towards a flat finish. This day is just about guaranteed to be contested by the sprinters in a bunch finish, unless any opportunistic breakaways can spoil the party of the lead out trains. On a circuit like this, though, getting a significant gap on a powerful, chasing bunch will be difficult, and the sprinters will be keen to make their suffering through the mountains earlier on in the race worth it for a chance to sprint for victory here.
The full start list for the Certazit Challenge by La Vuelta 2022 is yet to be announced, but we are expecting Movistar to bring Tour de France Femmes winner Annemiek van Vleuten. This race is incredibly important to the team and they will want their Dutch climbing talent to bring home a red jersey.
Demi Vollering could spoil the fun of her compatriot though. The Team SD Worx rider excels on shorter climbs and there may not be mountains long enough in La Vuelta for Van Vleuten to ride away from Vollering as she did at the Tour de France Femmes a few months earlier. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of FDJ-Suez Futuroscope is another rider who could contend for the overall here and she's confirmed via Instgram that she will take to the start. Team DSM’s Juliette Labous and Canyon//SRAM Racing’s Kasia Niewiadoma are also contenders for the overall.