The Vuelta a España is the final Grand Tour of the season, and will take place from 19th August to 11th September in 2022.
Few riders have gained such a stranglehold on any of cycling’s Grand Tours as Primoz Roglič has over the Vuelta a España. With victories in 2019, 2020 and 2021 Roglič has won the Vuelta three times in a row by a total winning margin of seven minutes and 39 seconds. That feat has only been equalled by two other riders, Tony Rominger from 1992 to 1994, and Roberto Heras from 2003 to 2005. Heras is the only person to have won the Spanish Grand Tour more than Roglič, the Jumbo-Visma rider can equal his record of four overall wins in 2022.
Roglič dominated the race in 2021, winning both time trials which bookended the route. Movistar's Enric Mas finished second overall, albeit a sizeable 4:42 behind the winner. Jack Haig claimed the first Grand Tour podium of his career after Miguel Ángel López infamously stepped off his bike whilst holding third place on stage 20.
With the 2022 route now announced, below is our guide to what we should expect across the three weeks of racing in Spain this summer.
The 2022 Vuelta a Espana will take place over 3,280km and 21 stages.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 1: Utrecht > Utrecht
Earlier in the season, the Giro d’Italia starts in Hungary, whilst the Tour de France begins in Denmark, and the Vuelta a España follows suit with events kicking-off in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The race gets underway with a 23.3km team time trial, making the Vuelta the only Grand Tour to feature a team time trial in 2022. Seemingly, team time trials have become something of a lost art at Grand Tours recently — there have only been two team time trials across all three Grand Tours in the previous three seasons. The 23.3km will create early variance in the GC.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 2: 's-Hertogenbosch > Utrecht
Although stage 2 features less than 500 metres climbing, the first points are offered up in the king of the mountain’s classification — the third category Alto de Amerongse Berg takes place just over 100km into the stage. The stage takes place in relatively close proximity to the coast, meaning we could see crosswinds play a role, otherwise the stage winner will be decided in a mass sprint.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 3: Breda > Breda
The race continues to navigate the Netherlands with stage 3 beginning and concluding in Breda. A pancake flat stage is almost certain to give a second opportunity in a row to the sprinters.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 4: Vitoria-Gasteiz > Laguardia
After a rest day, which allows the race to shift to Spain, stage 4 looks like a more familiar Vuelta route. The Puerto de Opakua and Puerto de Herrera are the two categorised climbs, with the latter peaking less than 15km from the finish line. An uphill drag in the final kilometres makes this a stage for the puncheurs or the highly resilient sprinters.
Laguardia hosts a Vuelta stage finish for the first time, although it hosted the departure of a stage in 1967, over 50 years ago.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 5: Irun > Bilbao
Stage 5 heads to the Basque region for a typically challenging stage which is the most difficult of the race to this point. Five categorised peaks offer plenty of points in the mountains jersey. Two ascents of the Alto del Vivero (4.7km @ 7.7%) will be decisive, with the final peak occurring with just under 15km to go, before the riders descend into Bilbao.
Before the stage, time gaps in the general classification will mainly be attributed to the opening team time trial, so we’ll find out which team, if any, takes control of the GC battle. With this in mind, the breakaway may have a chance.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 6: Bilbao > Ascensión al Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo
The breakaway also has a fair chance on stage 6, where the first mountain-top finish awaits. After departing from Bilbao, the riders head west where they’ll be greeted by the Pico Jano, which averages more than 6% over 12.6km. The red jersey will not be won here, but every contender must stay in touch.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 7: Camargo > Cistierna
A unique stage profile, which is dominated by the first category Puerto de San Glorio. The climb is the longest of the race so far (19.3km @ 5.9%) and peaks at 1,600 metres altitude. However, the climb is crested with more than 60km left. With a difficult weekend to follow, the favourites may look to conserve energy.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 8: Pola de Laviana > Colláu Fancuaya
The Vuelta enters Asturias on stage 8. Five categorised climbs and the second mountain-top finish of the race mean this is a crucial GC day. The stage begins on the foot of the Alto de la Colladona (7km @ 6.3%). If the breakaway doesn’t escape swiftly, the tempo could be rapid which would make this a treacherous day for the pure sprinters, who must ensure they finish within the time cut. The stage concludes with the Colláu Fancuaya (10.3km @ 7.8%), which is being ascended for the first time at the 2022 Vuelta a España.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 9: Villaviciosa > Les Praeres. Nava
The Vuelta continues in Asturias on stage 9, which precedes the second rest day. The first four categorised ascents will fatigue the peloton and provide a platform to blow up the race, but the stage will be decided on the savage Les Praeres (3.8km @ 13.1%) climb that concludes the day. Simon Yates won here in 2018.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 10: Elche > Alicante
The GC battle will continue on stage 10, but this time on the time trial bike. The 31.1km between Elche and Alicante are vital for the GC contenders. Primož Roglič has won the previous four individual time trials that have taken place at the Vuelta.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 11: ElPozo Alimentación > Cabo de Gata
After what may seem like an age for the sprinters, another chance for the fast men crops up on stage 11. The pure sprinters’ previous chance occurred in the Netherlands, so their teams will be motivated to control the tempo to ensure that this comes in for a mass sprint.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 12: Salobreña > Peñas Blancas. Estepona
Now in the south of Spain, the race travels west along the coastline. Stage 12 is all about the Peñas Blancas (19.8km @ 6.4%). After a mostly flat 175km, we’ll see a GC showdown on the final climb. Unless a GC rider is specifically targeting stage victory, the breakaway has a good chance of escaping early and gaining an unassailable lead.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 13: Ronda > Montilla
With limited opportunities at the 2022 Vuelta, the sprinters must capitalise when their chances arise. Their next opportunity crops up in Montilla on stage 13.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 14: Montoro > Sierra de La Pandera
Two huge mountain stages are positioned prior to the final rest day. La Pandera returns to the Vuelta on stage 14 after it was introduced in 2002, Roberto Heras won that day, whilst Óscar Sevilla (who still rides with Team Medellin at 45 years old) moved into the leader's jersey. The climb averages more than 7% over 12km, but its undulating nature means some sections are steeper than 10%.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 15: Martos > Sierra Nevada
The second week culminates on the punishing slopes of Sierra Nevada. The mountain featured on the 2017 route and was conquered by Miguel Ángel López for what was his first Grand Tour stage victory. The top ten were separated by more than one minute that day, and we can expect a similarly decimated peloton here.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 16: Sanlúcar de Barrameda > Tomares
One of the final chances for the sprinters will take place in Tomares. Stage 16 comes after the final rest day, and the sprinting teams will be motivated to deliver their leaders into the final kilometre with stage victory up for grabs.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 17: Aracena > Monasterio de Tentudía
Although there is more than 2,700 metres of climbing to tackle, stage 17 doesn’t offer the opportunity to create sizable gaps in the GC. When you also consider the final mountain stages which wait around the corner, the breakaway has a genuine chance to take stage honours.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 18: Trujillo > Alto del Piornal
After a relatively benign start, stage 18 undulates with upwards of 3,600 metres of climbing. The Alto del Piornal is a main feature as it is ascended twice, with the stage finishing atop the 13km ascent. The gradients aren’t particularly steep, the climb averages 5.6%. This means that creating decisive time gaps on the final climb alone will be challenging — teams may consider blowing up the race early, otherwise they may have to wait for one of the few other chances they have left.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 19: Talavera de la Reina > Talavera de la Reina
Stage 19 is essentially two laps of a circuit located in and north of Talavera de la Reina. The second category Puerto del Pielago (9km @ 5.9%) is the major challenge, although the second and final ascent of climb is crested more than 35km from the finish line. This makes stage 19 enticing for the strong sprinters who can resist a high tempo on medium mountains (we are looking at you, Magnus Cort).
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 20: Moralzarzal > Puerto de Navacerrada
The final GC test. Five categorised climbs, three of which are first category, provides the platform for the race to explode. Altitude comes into play here, with each peak cresting at more than 1,500 metres above sea level. The Puerto de Navacerrada (10.4km @ 6.5%) is the first climb, and depending on the GC situation, some teams may choose to press on here. There will be slightly more than 6km remaining after the final climb (Puerto de Cotos), so having satellite riders up the road waiting to drop back would be hugely beneficial for any attackers.
We’ll know the winner of the 77th Vuelta a España at the finish line.
Vuelta a España 2022 - Stage 21: Moralzarzal > Puerto de Navacerrada
La Vuelta returns to Madrid, where it has finished every year since 2015 bar last year, where it concluded in Santiago de Compostela. For the sprinters that have conquered the mountains, they'll be rewarded with one more chance to win a stage.
Image credit: CorVos/SWpix
With so much racing and time between now and the start of the Vuelta, we cannot be sure who will be on the startline. However, we can use team announcements and schedule rumours to work out who may start as a favourite.
Speaking to Sporza, Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevre has hinted that Remco Evenepoel could be racing the Vuelta in 2022. “The course should indeed suit him”, said Lefevere. “We have seen in the Giro — despite his lesser preparation — that he has the talent to ride Grand Tours. If he starts in Spain with normal preparation, I still see opportunities in a few stages.” Lefevre also tipped his team to do well in the team time trial. However, he is also keen not to give his young starlet a favourites tag. ”I absolutely do not want to assign him a favourite role. It still remains to be seen how he will react to a three-week stage race.”
2021 runner-up Enric Mas has told AS that one of his major goals for 2022 is winning the Vuelta a España. “I want to win this Vuelta, it is one of my goals,” said Mas after the route presentation. Mas has gained a reputation as a consistent GC contender at Grand Tours, finishing in the top five in four of the seven Grand Tours he’s entered.
Cover image: ASO/Photogomezsport/Tim De Waele