Vuelta a España 2022 stage 15 preview - Sierra Nevada

The queen stage of the Vuelta a España offers another opportunity for some big gains on GC

Vuelta a España 2022, stage 15
Distance: 153 kilometres
Start location: Martos
Finish location: Tomares
Start time: 12.05 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST

The queen stage of the 2022 Vuelta a España features the race’s only especial category climb, as the peloton heads to the Sierra Nevada for a battle royale before the final rest day. They will gain over 4000m of altitude on a day which promises to separate the best from the rest.

If yesterday’s tests seemed stringent, today’s will stretch the contenders to breaking point, as they contend with the heat of southern Spain alongside the unforgiving slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Beginning in the town of Martos, just a short distance north and west of yesterday’s stage finish, the peloton have 27km to settle into the day’s racing before the climbing begins, as the route travels back south once more. The Puerto del Castillo is a category three challenge. 6.8km in length, the climb averages 4.5% and is unlikely to pose a significant problem to the bunch, but it could provide a launching pad for determined riders looking to be a part of the day’s early break.

The route does not descend from the summit of the climb but rather follows a series of undulations for around 30km, heading through the stunning town of Alcalá la Real with its historic old town, before the race crosses into the province of Granada. A more significant descent brings the peloton down only to begin slowly rising once again. A long false flat leads the race through the eponymous provincial capital, Granada, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. An intermediate sprint marks the end of the easy-going gradients as the route begins to rise into the town of Monachil, which marks the start of the next categorised climb. 

With just over 50km left to race and two major climbs to contend with, this marks a point of no return for many, as the cream of the GC crop will likely begin to turn the screws as they attack the slopes of the category one Alto del Purche. It’s a stinker of a climb to have to tackle, knowing what is still to come: 9.1km at 7.6%, the relative brevity of the ascent means the bunch have some killer ramps to contend with, including pitches of up to 17%. There are bonus seconds available at the summit for the polka dot jersey contest.

A steep descent of 11km follows, during which the riders must gather themselves for a killer final challenge up to the peak of the Sierra Nevada. 

The climb is a monster, both in length and pitch. 22.3km at an average gradient 6.9%, the lower slopes are the toughest part of the ascent, with the first 5km launching skyward at an average of over 11% and with ramps of up to 20%. The slopes ease off after that, but with 17km of climbing still ahead of them accumulated fatigue will ensure that only the strongest climbers can challenge for the stage win, and GC contenders who don’t have three-week endurance in their legs will be found out. 

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 15 map and profile

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 15 profile

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 15 predictions and contenders

It is the second stage finish in the Vuelta's history at the summit of Hoya de la Mora in Sierra Nevada – Miguel Ángel ‘Superman’ López (Astana) will hope to repeat the victory he rode to here in 2017. He will have competition from the likes of Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), who loves a big Spanish mountain slog-fest, and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) who can handle himself on long climbs too. If Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) or Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) can hold their good form they too could challenge.

There's a strong chance this will be a GC day however after they came so close behind Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers as he won stage 14. Expect the liked of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Enric Mas (Movistar), and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) to all attempt to distance race leader Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) here.

Prediction: After he distanced Evenepoel on stage 14, we think Primož Roglič will win the stage and add a significant dent to Evenepoel's overall lead.