Vuelta a España 2022, stage nine
Distance: 171.4 kilometres
Start location: Villaviciosa
Finish location: Les Praeres. Nava
Start time: 12.40 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST
The second of two consecutive mountain stages, stage nine completes the first full week of the Vuelta a España with another day spent entirely amid the breath-taking scenery of Asturias. This time, the peloton will complete a loop, beginning in the west of the region in the town of Villaviciosa, and travelling east along the coast, before turning around and heading back west along an inland route.
Undulating terrain characterises almost the first 50km of the stage, as the riders head east along the north coast of Spain, alongside the Bay of Biscay. The first test of the day comes 48km in, just after the race turns inland, on a stretch of the route that travels south before the passage west begins.
The Alto del Torno is 7.6km long and averages 6% along its gradient, and as such it’s a second category climb. The day’s early break should be well established by this point but if there’s any doubt, this ascent will make the selection.
After that, a stepped descent follows, with just under 30km downhill all told before the centrally positioned Mirador del Fito puts the figurative cat amongst the pigeons. A category one climb, this 9km ascent is likely to cause significant splits in the peloton, and with a rest day coming up, there’s a chance that some of the GC riders might look to strike early and put some time into their opponents ahead of the final climb – and with pitches of up to 10%, the Mirador del Fito could be the place to do it. A sharp, swift descent of around 7km follows before a flat section of around 10km – the last real flat riding for the tired peloton before they head into a final 80km of incessant ups and downs.
The Alto de la Llama is next on the menu. 7.1km long at an average gradient of 5.1%, this is the first of two category three climbs within a stretch of the route less than 40km long. The second comes after a short descent and marks the end of the long circuit, as the race returns to the start town of Villaviciosa, where those interested in green jersey points will contend an intermediate sprint, before the route turns south and heads towards the finish town of Nava. The city is the symbolic heart of the Asturias region, famed for its cider production and religious architecture.
Before they arrive in Nava, the bunch face one further category three climb, La Campa – 9.3km long at an average gradient of 4.1%, where polka dot jersey contenders can pick up some bonus seconds – before the pass through the town centre and on towards the final daunting challenge of the day – the category one wall Les Praeres.
Gaining over 500 altitude metres in the space of just 3.9km, the average gradient for the final ascent is an eye-watering 12.9%, but after the first 500m the average gradient is well over 15% for 2km, with pitches of up to 24%. It will ask questions of the GC contenders and is guaranteed to separate them, with only the grittiest of climbers likely to be in contention for the stage win.
Vuelta a España 2022 map and profile
Vuelta a España stage nine profile
Vuelta a España 2022 stage nine map
Vuelta a España 2022 stage nine predictions and contenders
The final climb of stage nine is an absolute wall, and after the breakaway made it on stage eight on Saturday this stage looks like it could be about the GC contenders. The two favourites on this kind of terrain have to be race leader Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and defending champion Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Both have shown in the past how they can ride on steep ascents, so as long as their teams can keep the break within in reach they should be able to contest the win. Outsiders include second place Enric Mas (Movistar), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Prediction: We think that Remco Evenepoel will take his first Grand Tour victory here and extend his lead in the red jersey.