Miekssion: Possible III?
At the start of the year, it was announced that Annemiek van Vleuten would attempt to win both the Giro Donne, the Tour de France Femmes and the Vuelta Challenge in 2022. After she had already had to make a full recovery from the crash in last year's Paris-Roubaix, she also endured a broken shoulder in a training crash in April, avoided a race ending crash in the Giro and finally overcame illness in the first days of the Tour in order to cross off the first two races on the list.
After some post-Tour criteriums and a bit of relaxation, she now returns to Spain to defend her Vuelta title. Although she is up against a stacked field with pretty much every single GC candidate apart from Marta Cavalli, she's still the hot favourite and the treble seems almost inevitable. But races are fortunately not decided through internet previews, so hopefully we'll have a fun and exciting race to look forward to.
Start list: https://firstcycling.com/race.php?r=9058&y=2022&k=8
2015 Shelley Olds
2016 Jolien D'Hoore
2017 Jolien D'Hoore
2018 Ellen van Dijk
2019 Lisa Brennauer
2020 Lisa Brennauer
2021 Annemiek van Vleuten
After starting its life as a Madrid crit race back in 2015, the Vuelta Challenge has steadily grown and added additional stages and difficulty over the years, much like what you could've have hoped would have been the case for La Course, before the creation of the Tour de France Femmes.
This year it has five stages for the first time:
1. A 20 km TTT
2. A 106 km queen stage with five categorised climbs
3. A 96 km stage, which in the standard Vuelta way is called flat, despite the fact that it has a 16 km climb in it, which isn't much different from the one that Van Vleuten made the difference on in last year's race.
4. A 160 km stage with some uncategorised climbs in the beginning and an uphill finish. Or at least that is what the profile on the website, and the one that were shown during the route presentation in May, is telling you. But according to the road book there are two other climbs in the final 13 km, one of which includes 1.8 km on sterrato.
5. And then finally 96 km featuring 17 laps on the Madrid circuit to finish things off.
Another thing to pay attention to is that the first four stages will finish after the men's race. The TTT starts at 17:50 local time and will finish at about 19:30. The next three stages will finish somewhere between 19:20 and 19:40, and the last one ends at around 14:30. Judged from the GCN schedule, there will be about an hour of live coverage from all stages. We might not be able to watch the decisive move on stage 3, and we could also miss important action on at least stage 2 as well.
Stage 1: Marina de Cudeyo, TTT
Stage 2: Colindres
The first and the fourth/penultimate climb (same climb, different ascents)
The second climb
The third climb
The fifth and final climb
Stage 3: Camargo - Aguilar de Campoo
Stage 4: Palencia - Segovia
Stage 5: Madrid