With just a week left until the Vuelta a España 2023 kicks off on August 26, anticipation is hotting up.
The Vuelta has long established a reputation as the “Climber’s Tour”, with a penchant for savage climbs and punchy uphill finishes – and the Vuelta a España 2023 route is no exception.
The Vuelta hasn’t visited the Pyrenees since 2019, but the cycling heartland returns on its debt with interest in 2023 with three brutal stages set on the French border, including the Tourmalet.
Defending champion Remco Evenepoel will look to defend his crown against arguably the most exciting field of any of this year’s Grand Tours, including Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard and Giro winner (and three-time Vuelta champion) Primož Roglič.
The young upstart Juan Ayuso, who finished third on his debut at last year’s Vuelta, and former Grand Tour winners Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz will also seek to make their presence felt.
As at this year’s Tour de France, time-trialing is somewhat sidelined, with just 40 km against the clock spread across one individual and one team event.
And with just four clear-cut opportunities for sprinters, the organizers have made their intent clear: this is a Vuelta route for the climbers to gorge themselves on.
2023 Vuelta a España Dates
The 2023 Vuelta a España will start on August 26, 2023. The race will include 21 stages across 23 days, with two rest days on the 4th and 11th of September.
The final stage of the 2023 Vuelta a España in Madrid will take place on September 17, 2023.
Vuelta a España 2023 Route: Stage by Stage
Stage 1: Barcelona to Barcelona (Team Time Trial) – 15 km
Barcelona plays host the 2023 Vuelta’s curtain-raising team time trial.
At just shy of 15 km, it’s unlikely to create any decisive time gaps, but a win for any team but Jumbo-Visma would be a surprise given their strength and the presence of Olympic time-trialing champion Roglič.
Stage 2: Mataró to Barcelona – 182 km
An early slog up the Category 2 Coll d’Estenalles serves as a reminder of what the peloton faces over the next three weeks, but the relatively flat run to the finish should provide the sprinters with a rare opportunity to make their mark on the race.
Stage 3: Súria to Arinsal – 159 km
Never one to ease the GC contenders in gently, the first serious mountain day of the 2023 Vuelta comes on Stage 3 as the race enters the Pyrenees.
After crossing into Andorra, the route scales the Coll d’Ordino before the summit finish at Arinsal. With two rapid-fire Category 1 climbs in succession to close the stage, expect to see the serious players lay down a statement of intent.
Stage 4: Andorra la Vella to Tarragona – 185 km
The peloton gets some respite on Stage 4, as the race darts away from the Pyrenees to Tarragona.
Despite the relatively flat profile, a pair of Category 3 lumps in the final 50 km means the sprinters’ teams will have their work cut out to force a bunch finish nonetheless.
Stage 5: Morella to Burriana – 187 km
Another rare half-chance for the sprinters, but the Category 2 Collado de la Ibola 52 km from the line might just hand the initiative to the breakaway.
Stage 6: La Vall d’Uixó to Pico del Buitre – 184 km
An undulating stage pinches to a sharp finish with the Category 1 climb to the Javalambre Observatory Tower on the Pico del Buitre.
The Vuelta’s last visit to the observatory in 2019 sparked drama as the peloton fractured, allowing Miguel Ángel López snatched the red jersey. Expect similar fireworks this time.
Stage 7: Utiel to Oliva – 201 km
After a particularly brutal first week, Stage 7 should offer some much-needed respite.
The flat profile looks as clear a sprinter’s day as any – but sharp crosswinds from the Balearic sea could scupper plans for rest and recovery and offer opportunities to would-be escapists.
Stage 8: Dénia to Xorret de Catí – 165 km
With five categorized climbs, Stage 8 is among the most brutal of the 2023 Vuelta a España route.
With four of those already in the legs, the 20% ramps of the final ascent at Xorret de Catí has the potential to make or break GC campaigns.
Stage 9: Cartagena to Collado de la Cruz de Caravaca – 185 km
The gradients mellow for the final stage before the first rest day, but with two categorized climbs Stage 9 is still no walk in the park.
The rolling profile of the route and the somewhat forgiving climb to the finish at Collado de la Cruz may tempt the peloton’s puncheurs to target a stage win here.
Rest Day – September 4
Stage 10: Valladolid to Valladolid (Individual Time Trial) – 26 km
At face value, the relatively flat 26 km individual time trial around the northern city of Valladolid doesn’t appear to offer much opportunity to build telling time gaps.
However, plenty were making similar predictions before the short ITT at this year’s Tour de France, only for Jonas Vingegaard to pulverize Tadej Pogačar and his GC challenge.
Expect reigning Olympic champion Roglič and newly-crowned time trial World Champion Remco Evenepoel to make their presence felt.
Stage 11: Lerma to La Laguna Negra – 164 km
With just one climb of note, Stage 11 doesn’t leap out as a hotbed of action, but the ascent to La Laguna Negra is meaty enough to get the GC contenders interested.
The Vuelta last visited in 2020, when Roglič and Carapaz – both among the favorites this year – were edged out by Dan Martin after the trio had escaped the chasing group.
Stage 12: Ólvega to Zaragoza – 151 km
Stage 12 appears a clear sprinters day, without a categorized climb in sight – a rarity on the 2023 Vuelta route.
Stage 13: Formigal to Col du Tourmalet – 135 km
Stage 13 is a beast.
Darting across the French border, the route takes on the categoría especial (HC) Col d’Aubisque, the Category 1 Col de Spandelles, before finishing with the almighty Col du Tourmalet (ascending the Luz-Saint-Sauveur side).
The Tourmalet’s status as hallowed ground for cyclists may owe far more to its Tour de France heritage than to the Vuelta, but make no mistake: the legendary mountain pass could play a huge role in determining the fate of this race.
Stage 14: Sauveterre-de-Béarn to Larra-Belagua – 157 km
There is no respite on Stage 14, with an absolute brute of a day lined up for the second day in succession.
The mountains may lack the pedigree of the previous stage, but they’re no easier to scale. The Col Hourcére, Puerto de Larrau, and summit finish at Puerto de Belagua make it four HC and two Category 1 climbs in two days.
On paper, the profile may look perfectly suited to Jonas Vingegaard – but as the second of two savage mountain days, this could be the moment we see his exertions at the Tour take their toll on his legs.
Stage 15: Pamplona to Lekunberri – 159 km
As the race moves into the Basque Country, the mountains fade to be replaced by rolling hills perfectly suited to a breakaway.
The peloton will be wrecked after their efforts over the previous two days, so a well-marshaled break should have a fighting chance of escaping to the line before a thoroughly-deserved rest day.
Rest Day – September 11
Stage 16: Liencres Playa to Bejes – 121 km
The 2023 Vuelta’s second-shortest day, Stage 16 allows the peloton to gently return to action across 110 km of gently undulating terrain.
However, the final 5 kilometers consist of a short, sharp kick up the Category 2 climb to Bejes, sure to wake any dozing GC contenders from their slumber.
Stage 17: Ribadesella/Ribeseya to Altu de L’Angliru – 125 km
The Alto de L’Angliru is monstrous.
Often referred to as Europe’s hardest climb, the Angliru traverses 12.5 km at an average gradient of over 10%, with ramps at a savage 24%. Each of its seven appearances has sparked high drama since it was introduced as the Vuelta’s answer to Alpe d’Huez and the Giro’s Mortirolo Pass.
The road is so steep that at the 2002 edition, team cars stalled and were unable to restart due to rain and chalk messages painted by fans on the road. David Millar crashed three times and stopped one meter from the finish in protest at the Angliru’s inclusion, handing in his race number and leaving the race.
Stage 18: Pola de Allande to La Cruz de Linares – 179 km
As far as mountain finishes go, the little-known Cruz de Linares may look tame in comparison to the Angliru.
However, with four substantial climbs already in the legs on the day, it presents a major opportunity for GC action.
Stage 19: La Bañeza to Íscar – 178 km
Stage 19 is a peace offering from Vuelta organizers to the sprinters.
If any of them have survived the savagery of the previous week in the grupetto, then they’ve earned it.
Stage 20: Manzanares El Real to Guadarrama – 208 km
Stage 20 is an unorthodox penultimate stage.
At first glance, the elevation profile looks far less spiky than you’d expect from the final day of GC action at La Vuelta.
However, with ten Category 3 climbs across 208 km, Stage 20 is a serious slog.
It remains to be seen how such a route plays out, but it might just provide an opportunity for a rider slipping out of contention to launch an all-out solo attack to turn the race on its head, à la Chris Froome at the 2018 Giro.
Stage 21: Hipódromo de la Zarzuela to Madrid, Paisaje de la Luz – 102 km
The Vuelta returns to familiar territory for Stage 21’s processional route to Madrid, before looping a circuit around the Paisaje de la Luz and ending with a sprint finish finale.
So, now we know what the Vuelta a España 2023 route has in store for us, we want to hear your opinions.
What stages stand out as the likely decisive moments? Which of the favorites do you think the 2023 Vuelta route most suits?