Vuelta a España 2022 stage six preview – the real mountains begin

A tough stage could see the first big GC shakeup of the race

Vuelta a España 2022, stage six
Distance: 181.2 kilometres
Start location: Bilbao
Finish location: Ascensión al Pico Jano, San Miguel de Aguayo
Start time: 11.20 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST

33 stages of La Vuelta have departed from Bilbao, making it one of the mainstays of La Vuelta España, and stage 6 sees the 34th , as the peloton bids farewell to the Basque country and heads west into Cantabria. Despite the familiar starting point, this stage sees a number of firsts – this year’s first proper mountain stage, and the first summit finish – on a climb which features for the very first time.

Read more: Vuelta a España 2022 route: everything you need to know

Vuelta a España 2022 stage six map and profile

Heading west from Bilbao, the first 70km of the day are typically Spanish, with plenty of climbing and descending and relatively little flat. The Puerto de Alisas is the first significant challenge of the day. A category 2 climb, it could split the bunch, but the GC group are likely to stay together with over 100km of racing still to unfold. The 8.7km ascent averages 5.8%, with the descent that follows
similar in length. Following this, the flattest 25km of the day will provide some relief as the race completes its journey west, before turning south towards the day’s final destination. The peloton faces two category one climbs in the final 50km, on a day which could be one for a strong climber to steal a breakaway win, if the GC contenders don’t decide to challenge one another.

The first of the big climbs is the Collada de Brenes. This ascent will split the bunch along its 6.8km length, as although it averages an already tricky 8.2%, this median conceals within it two 1km sections of over 10%, and includes pitches of up to 15% in places. The summit offers bonus points for the KOM contenders, so it will be hotly contested.

The descent from the climb is around 13km long and although there is an intermediate sprint in the valley, at Santa Cruz de Iguña, it’s a brief plateau before the climbing begins again in earnest. The final climb is the Pico Jano. It features in the race for the first time, with the last 4km of former dirt road being paved especially for the race. It’s a long, arduous first category test, 12.6km in length
at an overall average of 6.6%, with the first 7.6km a steady rise, averaging 7%.

A short levelling out gives the riders brief respite before the summit finish, a painful 600m at 14.9%. The tiny municipality of San Miguel de Aguayo, home of the Pico Jano, hosts the Vuelta for the first time. The town is known for its commitment to sustainability, with a hydroelectric plant harnessing the power of the local waterfalls, and it could see the race return if it provides the expected
fireworks.

Vuelta a España 2022 stage six predictions and contenders

Today could be a battle between the main GC contenders. Ineos Grenadiers' Richard Carapaz and Jumbo-Visma's Primož Roglič – who has already won a stage of this year's race – will be at the forefront here. BikeExchange's Simon Yates could also play a big part in the battle for time gains on the overall GC, as could Giro d'Italia winner Jai Hindley (BORA-Hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl.

Outside of the main GC favourites, Sergio Higuita of BORA-Hansgrohe could be allowed a day in the break to go for a stage win, as could Groupama FDJ's Thibaut Pinot or Bahrain Victorious' Santiago Buitrago. Jan Hirt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) may also contest the stage win today or Miguel Ángel López of Astana Qazaqstan.

Predictions: Stages like this are always notoriously tough to predict – the GC teams could want to keep things together so their leaders can fight it out for a stage win, or the breakaway could be given enough leeway to make it to the line. We're going to bet on the GC favourites fighting it out for the stage win, though, and think that Primož Roglič will take a second win of the race.