Vuelta a España 2022, stage two
Start location: s’Hertogenbosch (Netherlands)
Finish location: Utrecht (Netherlands)
Start time: 12.15 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST
The first proper road stage of the 2022 Vuelta a España is a mostly flat jaunt around the province of North Brabant, an area of the Netherlands that lies due south of Utrecht and is known for its industry and tourist attractions.
Beginning in s’Hertogenbosch, the province’s capital – locally known simply as ‘Den Bosch’ – the race will work its way north, back to the city where it started on Friday.
The city is the birthplace of the great Marianne Vos, but her Jumbo-Visma team mates are unlikely to feature on a day that’s meant for the sprint teams – the first of two probable sprint stages in succession.
The first 70km is pan flat in true Dutch style, with not a bump or climb to trouble the riders. It’s likely to be a quiet start to the race, as the Spanish Grand Tour takes in some Dutch culture, winding its way around a town known for its museums and historic buildings, before heading north towards Utrecht, via three major river crossings. The last of these marks a transition as the race heads towards a bumpier section of parcours, once the riders have crossed the Rijnburg – the bridge that crosses the Dutch section of the Rhine river.
Shortly after this, the only categorised climb of the day – and the first of the Vuelta – offers those with an early interest in King of the Mountains points a chance to test their legs. The category four Amerongse Berg is tackled just over 100km into the day’s racing. It’s a 2.1km ascent with an average gradient of 2.4%, so while unlikely to cause any major ripples within the peloton, there is always a chance that an opportunistic breakaway group may decide to take their chances against the sprinters’ teams. But with 70km still to traverse before the finish, it would need to be a well-organised and disciplined group to have any chance of making an impression on the final.
From here, the race moves along the low sandhills of the 50km-long Utrecht Hill Ridge, giving the riders a little more climbing to contend with in the latter stages of the race.
An intermediate sprint at Soesterberg air base marks the return to a flat profile, and the tempo is likely to remain high as the peloton heads into the final 17km or so, towards a probable bunch sprint finish in Utrecht’s science park.
With opportunities for sprinters few and far between in the final Grand Tour of the year, and a sprint field that lacks several of the biggest names, a few will see this pair of stages in the Netherlands as the perfect opportunity to grab a stage win.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage two map and profile
With just one category four climb and some other rolling inclines, the Vuelta a España stage two route shouldn't pose any problems to the riders and a bunch finish looks nailed on.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage two predictions and contenders
The presence of two flat stages at the start of the Vuelta mean a lot more sprinters have opted to turn up than you'd have found in years gone by.
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Sam Bennett and Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) are the favourites on paper, but there could be chances for the likes of Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) or even Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers).
Prediction: Tim Merlier to take victory on the first road stage of the Vuelta.