Vuelta a España 2022 stage 20 preview - the final mountains

Full preview of the final mountain stage of the Vuelta a España 2022

Vuelta a España 2022, stage 20
Distance: 181 kilometres
Start location: Moralzarzal
Finish location: Puerto de Navacerrada
Start time: 11.45 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST

The final challenge of the 2022 Vuelta a España is a day of relentless climbing in the Guadarrama mountain range in the Community of Madrid. 

Another debutante start town features in the final mountain stage of the Grand Tour, Moralzarzal Is located north-west of Madrid. A characterful town situated in the Sierra de Guadarrama, Moralzarzal is replete with pretty buildings and authentic Spanish cuisine, and is notable for its altitude, sitting 900m above sea level – still the lowest point on today’s route. 

Situated close to the finish location of Puerto de Navacerrada, which will feature twice on today’s route, the peloton will leave Moralzarzal and pass through the finish once before completing a loop and returning. This ensures the riders will remain local to Madrid for tomorrow’s closing stage, but it also allows for a significant amount of climbing, as the route works its way through the mountains, with a number of categorised climbs on the day’s menu as the profile rises and falls several times throughout the day.

In fact, it’s uphill all the way at the beginning of the stage – well, false flat perhaps, for around 10km, before the gradient increases and the road begins to ascend. It’s 23.7km before the first categorised section of climbing officially begins though, and it’s a tough start: the Puerto de Navacerrada is a category one challenge of 10.3km, and with an average pitch of 6.8%. The climb increases in difficulty with the lower slopes gentler and the upper reaches a more stringent challenge, ramps of up to 13% breaking the rhythm of a bunch which may still not have come to order – it may prevent a breakaway gathering much of a lead, particularly in the final day of climbing of the Grand Tour, with the overall classification potentially still hanging in the balance.

After the descent from the climb the peloton heads north and then east to the far side of the circuit along around 35km of relatively flat roads, before they turn south and immediately face the next climb. With just under 100km remaining, the riders face four climbs in quick succession, with almost a shark-tooth profile to contend with. A pair of cat two climbs are up first – the Puerto de Navafria at just under 10km, and the Puerto de Canencia at 7.5km. These are separated by 12km of descent and around 15km on the flat, and once complete, less than 8km of descent remain before the two biggest tests of the day.

With 50km to go, the two category one climbs form the final of the entire Grand Tour. The Puerto de la Morcuera is 9.4km at 6.9% and the Puerto de Cotos is 10.3km at the same gradient. They are similar in nature, both of them easier at the start and tougher towards the finish. The final climb tops out with 6.7km of false flat remaining to the finish.

At this late stage in the race there’s every chance the GC will be all but over and this could be a scrap for minor placements. On the other hand, in a race already beset with illness, and following three weeks in which any number of strong riders may have ridden themselves into form, the young guns at the top may find themselves off the pace, and with a hefty amount of altitude metres to contend with, there could, perhaps, be hope for a late upset.

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 20 map and profile

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 20 profile

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 20 map

Vuelta a España predictions and contenders

For the stage win, if it’s not for the GC men, we could see the likes of Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Easypost) and Clément Champoussin (Ag2r Citroën) go for the stage, or even Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) reach out for a third stage victory.

Prediction: We think this will go to the breakaway but it's a hard to call who will win after such a long race. We're going to back Thibaut Pinot to stage an unexpected turnaround of fortunes and grab a victory.