Vuelta a España 2022 stage 14 preview - back to the mountains
A summit finish on Sierra de La Pandera should see a battle between the GC men
Vuelta a España 2022, stage 14
Distance: 160.3 kilometres
Start location: Montoro
Finish location: Sierra de La Pandera
Start time: 12.05 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST
The town of Montoro in the province of Córdoba hosts its second ever stage start of the Vuelta a España today 22 years after its first in the year 2000. Situated within beautiful natural landscape, the area is one of the last habitats of the native Iberian lynx and the town also holds the dubious honour of having the highest ever recorded temperature in Spanish history, the mercury tipping 47.4 degrees Celsius exactly one year prior.
In what has already been a record-breaking summer in terms of heat, the peloton will hope the temperatures don’t reach those heights as they pass through the region, and head East, along the Guadalquivir, the only major navigable river in Spain. The route heads along the southern tip of the Sierra de Andújar national park as it crosses the border into the region of Jaén, an area famous for its vast olive groves.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage 14 map and profile
The terrain is bumpy but without anything in the way of troubling ascents for the first 75km or so, although the road does pass an extinct volcano at the town of Marmalejo. Turning south just after Mengibar, it’s not until just before the race reaches the town of Jaén itself that the route begins to ascend, albeit up gentle slopes at first. Jaén is an impressive town, boasting bath houses, museums, a medieval fortress and a Renaissance cathedral.
From Jaén the riders will complete a loop out to the east, with the road rising steadily up to the first categorised climb of the day, although by the time the peloton hits the beginning of the 3rd category Puerto de Siete Pilillas they will have already been ascending for almost 10km. The climb is relatively long at 9.9km but with a shallow average gradient of 3.5% it is unlikely to cause too many ripples in the bunch, however it’s the kind of day where a determined breakaway could use such a climb as a springboard, with just over 50km remaining of the race after the climb.
There’s a fair bit of downhill, punctuated by a couple more uncategorised bumps, and an intermediate sprint in Jaén as the race loops back and continues south. From here the serious business of the day will begin: two climbs, separated by a mere 3.7km of flat, which added together total a hefty 18.8km of ascent up to the day’s summit finish.
The Puerto de Los Villares (cat 2) is first up – 10.4km at an average gradient of 5.5%, the climb will begin the process of thinning the bunch, as the GC contenders are able to show their form over a longer ascent for the first time since stage 9. Since then, the time trial will have seen a re-ordering of the top contenders, so unless the breakaway has gained a significant gap, expect fireworks up the final climb.
It’s the sixth Vuelta finish at the category 1 La Pandera, the highest point of the Sierra Sur de Jaén mountain range. Most recently Rafal Majka rode to victory there in 2017. 8.4km in length, the average gradient of 7.8% belies the intimidating reality of the climb.
The first kilometre will smash what remains of the bunch to pieces with a short ramp of 15% before a long section at 9.9%. The next 3km will feel like a rest given what’s to come. A kilometre at an unforgiving 14.4% followed by another at 10.6%, both with pitches of 15% along their length, will offer a strong sense of who is able to go the distance in the GC battle.
As the spent riders complete the final 500m – a steep ramp of 15% followed by a final section at 6.7% up to the military station at the summit, we should see the strongest rise to the top.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage 14 predictions and contenders
It's hard to ascertain if the winner of today's stage will come from the breakaway or the GC group. Should the breakaway make it to the line, there are a number of riders who could perform well, notably Jay Vine (Alpecin Deceuninck) who has won two stages already in this race – both on similar terrain to that seen in stage 14. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) is another rider who has won a stage so far and could also be suited to the final climb today. Gino Mäder of Bahrain Victorious is another rider who could find himself fighting from the win from the break, as is Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ.) Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) could also fancy another shot at a second stage win today, so could Wilco Kelderman of BORA-Hansgrohe.
Of the GC men, red jersey wearer Remco Evenepoel (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) has proven himself multiple times as the strongest climber, but Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is also showing a solid return to form. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) and Enric Mas (Movistar) also have an outside shot at victory.
Prediction: We think Remco Evenepoel will reign supreme in red today. He's in imperious form and it's going to be hard to shake him off on this climb.