WHITEY’S VUELTA ROUTE REVIEW: “For me, the race will be won before the last week...”

Tue 17 Dec 2019

The final Grand Tour of the season, La Vuelta a Espana, announced its course for the 2020 and 75th edition in Madrid this evening, revealing some familiar characteristics but with a bit of a twist.

We spoke to head sport director Matt White to get his thoughts: 

Overview – An international flavour:
The 2020 Vuelta a Espana will cover 3245km across it’s 21 stages, with 56.8 time trial kilometres split between two stages.  

The international route will visit four countries – starting in Holland, the race returns to Spain with additional visits to France and Portugal before its traditional finish in Madrid.

Whitey: “I like the route, it’s a bit of a different route than we’ve seen before in the Vuelta. 

“It’s in four countries, I think it’s the most international Vuelta in history and it’s got something for everyone.

“You’ve got your flat stages in Holland to start with, a crucial mountain day in France with the Tourmalet stage and I don’t remember in my time a stage going to Portugal either.

“It’s been maybe seven or eight years since the race hasn’t gone in to the South of Spain too. They are avoiding guaranteed heat in that move. It could still be warm in the North, but you know when you go South you’ve got guaranteed hot weather.” 

An easier final week, but no easy feat:
With the first summit finish presented on the race’s initial arrival to Spain on stage four, the pressure doesn’t let off for the with a particularly brutal second week. 

The final week differs from what we generally see in Grand Tours, with the individual time trial to begin and just one mountain stage, the penultimate stage to Alto de la Covatilla, surrounded by a number of flat days.

Whitey: “The big standout of the 2020 Vuelta route is that it’s probably the easiest final week of a Grand Tour I’ve seen in a while. There’s a time trial after the rest day and then only one mountain stage, which really bucks the trend for other Grand Tours.

“It’s still a hard race, but it’s pitched in a different way. That second week is pretty brutal.  Once you arrive back in Spain, it’s pretty full on from stage four to stage 15. You start straight away with a hill top finish first day back, and stage 15 is Angliru.  

“For me, the race will be won before the last week and not many Grand Tours are like that.

“When you’re trying to win the Giro or the Tour, you need a team that is going to be rock solid in that third week. This course might go against this trend, because if you’ve got a decent lead after Angliru, it’s going to be easier to control that final week as a team.

“What it means is that the team has to be ready to go from the start. By the time the last week comes, the damage is done and I don’t see too many opportunities in that last week to make up time.”

A smaller role for time trials:
The 2020 route features just one team time trial and one individual time trial.

Opening proceedings in Holland on the first day, the team time trial is slightly longer than recent years at 23.3km, on a flat and untechnical route.  The individual time trial, the bigger of the two at 33.5km, comes at the start of the final week and is predominantly flat until a final 1.5km climb to finish.

Whitey: “I think the time trials will play a minimal role in the overall. With a 23km TTT, you’re still going to see some gaps, you’re looking at one-minute plus. And in the individual time trial, there’s the 2km climb at the finish, but that’s it. I think the gaps will be minimal.”

Photo courteys of Kristof Ramon.