2023 Vuelta a EspañaAug 26 - Sep 17

2023 Vuelta a España - 2023 Vuelta a España - PJAMM Cycling Grand Tour Page
2023 Vuelta a España - 2023 Vuelta a España - PJAMM Cycling Grand Tour Page

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FULL SUMMARY

La Vuelta A España

The climbing in this year’s Vuelta is set to be epic. Among the featured climbs are Alto de l’Angliru, the Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aubisque, Port de Larrau, Port d'Arinsal, Col d’Ordino, Col de la Pierre St. Martin.  It’s going to be a fun year to watch the chase for the blue polka dot jersey.

La Vuelta A Espana - cyclist wearing blue polka dot jersey

Yep, the polka dots for the best climber in the Vuelta are blue!

There will be seven mountain stages, six hilly stages with plenty of climbing for their own right, and two flat stages with a climb finale and summit finishes. The mountain stages and summit finishes are covered below, as well as on their Stage pages.

Official map of la Vuelta a España route.

Brief Tour Overview:

For the first time in 61 years, la Vuelta will start in Barcelona, with a team time trial in the heart of downtown. From there the riders head north into Andorra, taking on the Col d’Ordino and the Port d’Arinsal.

From there the ride goes south along the Mediterranean coast for some flat stages and three summit finishes. After an individual time trial in Valladolid, a couple of flat stages, one of those (Stage 11) with a Cat 1 summit finish. And then, its on to the Pyrenees.

Two stages highlight some of the best climbs in France, Stage 13 ending at the top of the Col du Tourmalet. From there the tour rides west and takes on perhaps the most feared climb in all of cycling, the Alto de l'Angliru (World #52) in Stage 17. The tour ends in Madrid.

Fun Facts About the 2023 Vuelta:

  • The riders of the 2023 Vuelta will climb a total of 169,669 ft (51,715 m);
  • The Vuelta covers a distance of 1960 miles over 21 days (3153.8 km);
  • The biggest climbs in the Vuelta are:
  • The highest elevation is 6,939’ (2,115m) above sea level, in Stage 17 at the top of the Tourmalet.
  • The hardest climb of the 2023 Vuelta is Alto de l'Angliru, with Col du Tourmalet a distant second. The average grade of this 7.7 mile (12.4 km) monster is a stunning 11.2%.  Alto de l’Angliru is the 52nd hardest cycling climb in the world;
  • Steepest segments:
  • Imperial:
  • Half-mile: Angliru (19.7%)
  • Mile: Angliru (18%)
  • 2.5 miles: Angliru (15.8%)
  • 5 miles: Angliru (13%)
  • Metric:
  • 1 kilometer: Angliru (19%)
  • 2 kilometers: Angliru (17.4%)
  • 5 kilometers: Angliru (15.5%)
  • 10 kilometers: Angliru (12.2%)
  • Top Stages:
  • Distance: Stage 20 at 129.2 miles / 208.2 kilometers
  • Most elevation gained: Stage 18 at 14,550’ / 4,435 meters.
  • 29,252 ft of climbing will take place outside of Spain

Stage 3 (mountain stage #1)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 3 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

The first mountain stage ends on the summit of the Pal-Arinsal Ski Resort. The huge Category 1 climb preceding it is the Col d’Ordino, one of Andorra’s most popular climbs. Only eight points are available for winning the climbs on Stage 2, and with 20 points up for grabs on Stage 3, this day will definitely decide who wears the blue polka dots for the first week.

La Vuelta A Espana - road sign for Coll d'Ordino Andorra

The Col d’Ordino


Stage 6 (mountain stage #2)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 6 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

The second mountain stage will include two Category 3 climbs (Puerto de Arenillas at mile 30, and Alto Fuente de Rubielos at mile 50), before a summit finish at the Javalambre Observatory. Alto de Javalambre is a Category 1 climb, gaining 2,970 ft in 7.4 miles, and breaking a 15% grade multiple times.

Cycling the 2023 Vuelta a Espana - aerial view of Alto de Javalambre observatory

Alto de Javalambre

Cycling the 2023 Vuelta a Espana - photo shows barren, desert-like landscape at the Alto de Javalambre observatory

Barren landscape around the Javalambre Observatory (visible on hill on left).


Stage 8 (mountain stage #3)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 8 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

After one of the flattest stages in the tour comes one of the hilliest days in the tour, so hilly that it’s classified as a mountain stage. However, none of the climbs of the day exceed 2,000 feet gained. One climb sticks out on the profile, the Xorret de Cati. Only 2.5 miles long, this Category 1 climb averages over 11% and at times reaches gradients above 20%. After climbing 10,400’ already in the stage, these gradients will be a test for even the toughest riders in the world!

La Vuelta A Espana - vies of village of Castalla, Spain

The climb begins in the community of Castalla

La Vuelta A Espana - panoramic views show brush and mountains at Xorret de Cati

Panoramic views at the top of the Xorret de Cati.


Stage 11 (flat with summit finish)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 11 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

Stage 11 is a flat/rolling stage with an epic summit finish at the beautiful Laguna Negra Vinuesa in the Sierra de Cebollera National Park. Almost one-quarter of the stage’s climbing will come in the final ascent.

La Vuelta A Espana - panoramic view of scenic jagged mountain ridge line surrounding a lagoon

The lagoon, located at 5,700’ above sea level, is surrounded by a scenic jagged ridge.


Stage 13 (mountain stage #4)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 13 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

There are four sets that could each be considered the toughest back-to-back days in pro cycling this year:

The day starts with a Category 3 climb on the Col du Pourtalet, where the riders cross into France. What comes next is a loop the Tour de France has done dozens of times: attacking Tourmalet from the west by means of the iconic Pyrenean climbs, the Aubisque and Spandelles.

Did the Vuelta get inspiration from 2022 TdF’s Stage 18? 🤔

La Vuelta A Espana - aerial drone view shows stunning summit finish at Tourmalet

The summit finish at Tourmalet.

photo collage shows col du Tourmalet sign, silver cyclist statue at climb's finish, aerial drone view of summit

Tourmalet is often described as one of the best bike climbs in the world

La Vuelta A Espana - aerial view shows hairpin turns on Tourmalet

La Vuelta A Espana - photo collage shows cyclists taking photos with bike statues next to horses in green pastures on the Col d’Aubisque climb

Col d’Aubisque is another epic French Pyrenees climb included in this years Vuelta.

The Tourmalet and Aubisque are HC climbs in this stage. In the Vuelta a España, Hors Categorie climbs are called “ESP,” or “Especial” - designating that the climb is so hard that it’s above categorization.

Col du Tourmalet was also in Stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France, but climbed from the east.


Stage 14 (mountain stage #5)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 14 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

This is the second day in the French Pyrenees. Starting in Sauveterre-de-Béarn, the route goes south back into the Pyrenees to do another two HC climbs, Col Issarbe (Col Hourciere) and the Port de Larrau.

La Vuelta A Espana - view looking down over French/Spain border at Port de Larrau

The incredibly scenic Port de Larrau leads to the French-Spain border

After the riders cross back into Spain at the Port de Larrau, and the stage ends back at the French border at the Col de la Pierre Saint Martin. The Col de la Pierre Saint Martin has multiple routes that are some of the hardest in France. The Spanish side, while a challenging climb, is much easier.

La Vuelta A Espana - view of foggy mountainside at The Col de la Pierre Saint Martin

The Col de la Pierre Saint Martin


Stage 16 (flat with summit finish)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 16 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

After the second rest day, the riders will do a very short but rolling stage along the coast of the Bay of Biscay before a steep climb to the finish. Ending in Bejes, the Salto de la Cabra (La Hermida) is only a Category 2, but with extra points awarded from also winning the stage. This climb has the third steepest average gradient of the Vuelta (9%).

The stage will take the riders into the Cantabrian mountains for the next two days. This mountain range which extends from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic is one of the most beautiful parts of Spain, and the Vuelta pays it a visit every year.

La Vuelta A Espana - scenic country views with a gravel roadway looking down at Salto de la Cabra to the town of Bejes

The riders will only climb the Salto de la Cabra to the town of Bejes, halfway up the full climb.

La Vuelta A Espana - aerial drone view looking down the mountainside at the roadway leading from the town of Bejes,

The final hairpins leading to the finish in Bejes.

La Vuelta A Espana - aerial drone view looking over green pasturelands, stone mountains, and town of Bejes

Not a bad place to watch a stage finish…


Stage 17 (mountain stage #6)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

As it often does, the Angliru will probably decide who wins the Vuelta, and will almost certainly decide who the strongest climber in the tour is, and who wears the blue polka dots into Madrid.  Fortunately, there are only two Category 1 climbs before the Angliru, which, glancing at the profile above, should show you the magnitude of just what this monster climb is.

There is a fun story behind this climb: This road was paved for the sole purpose of becoming a cycling climb. In the late 1990s, the Vuelta organizers wanted their own Alpe d’Huez, Tourmalet, Stelvio, Ventoux. Thus, they decided to create a new road up the Pico La Gamonal mountain in the most scenic part of Spain: Las Ubiñas-La Mesa National Park.

But perhaps they got carried away and made it too hard. This climb is so steep in places that the team cars have stalled.  A team manager once said: "What do they want? Blood? They ask us to stay clean and avoid doping and then they make the riders tackle this kind of barbarity.”  Former Scottish pro David Millar famously stopped a half-meter short of the finish on Angliru and refused to cross the line in protest, saying, "We are not animals, and this is inhuman.”

Cycling Alto de l'Angliru, Spain - photo collage, bike parked in front of large white stone map for Anglirue mountain, cyclist rides on two-lane roadway on mountainside, sign for KM1, panoramic view looking down mountainside, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Cycling Alto de l'Angliru, Spain - photo collage of altitude signs throughout climb

The Angliru (#25 World) is one of the few world ranked climbs to ever be included in a Grand Tour. We presume that in general the race organizers stay away from climbs of this caliber of destruction to keep the riders more focused on racing. However, as we’ve learned, not the case for the Vuelta organizers!

Other world ranked climbs to be included in Grand Tours are:

Tour:

World

Rank

Climb Name

Country

# of times included

Fiets Index

Score

Distance

(mi)

Avg.

Grade

Peak (ft)

Gained (ft)

Vuelta a España

17

Pico Veleta

Spain

1

20.6

19.4

7.70%

11,032

7,875

Giro d'Italia

37

Colle delle Finestre

Italy

4

17.8

10.5

9.90%

7,452

5,474

Vuelta a España

52

Alto de l'Angliru

Spain

8

16.1

7.7

11.20%

5,641

4,526

Giro d'Italia

56

Passo dello Stelvio

Italy

13

15.6

14.8

7.60%

9,049

5,972

Giro d'Italia

65

Monte Crostis

Italy

*

15.1

8.2

10.40%

6,408

4,488

Giro d'Italia

70

Passo Mortirolo

Italy

15

14.9

7.2

11.10%

6,062

4,176

Giro d'Italia

73

Monte Zoncolan

Italy

7

14.6

5.4

12.70%

5,551

3,617

Giro d'Italia

79

Croix de Coeur

Switzerland

1

14.4

13.7

7.80%

7,124

5,708

Giro d'Italia

95

Monte Grappa/Bocca di Forca

Italy

1

13.9

6.4

11.50%

4,747

3,891

Tour de France

100

Col de la Loze

France

2

13.8

14

7.50%

7,496

5,511

*Monte Crostis was scheduled to be in the 2011 Giro, but the stage was canceled.


Stage 18 (mountain stage #7)

La Vuelta A Espana - PJAMM Cycling Climb tool shows route overview of Stage 18 of the 2023 Vuelta bike climb

This is the last mountain stage (but not the last climbing stage - Stage 20 features over 14,000’ of climbing, and is only a “Hilly” stage!).  Five categorized climbs are certainly going to test the riders, two of those being Cat 1 climbs: Puerto San Lorenzo, and the Puerto de la Cruz de Linares, which is actually done twice. During this stage we’ll see who’s recovered from the Angliru the day before!

 La Vuelta A Espana - National Park sign for Las Ubinas la Mesa

The Puerto San Lorenzo is the biggest climb of the day and the highest elevation.

La Vuelta A Espana - beautiful green scenic hillside views at Puerto de la Cruz de Linares

The riders will cross the summit of Puerto de la Cruz de Linares before circling back and doing the same climb from the same direction again. Brutal!

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