Vuelta a Espana 2020 takes in Netherlands, France and Portugal

MADRID (AFP) – The Vuelta a Espana organisers unveiled an international route yesterday with Spanish cycling’s grand tour embarking from the Netherlands before side excursions into France and Portugal on the 2020 itinerary.

The action begins with an agenda-setting team time trial in the Dutch city of Utrecht on August 14 and culminates 3,245km, 21 stages and three potentially thrilling weeks later in Madrid on September 6.

As well as three Dutch stages the route also features cycling’s mythical Col de Tourmalet in France where Thibaut Pinot won a stage ahead of Julian Alaphilippe on the 2019 Tour de France.

For the first time since 1997 the route also takes in two stages in Portugal, including the only stage over 200km. The route is also notable for excluding the sweltering South altogether.

Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic is the defending champion while runner-up veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde is likely to race the Tour de France and the Olympics in July before retiring.

The 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar will be a focus of attention after winning three stages, the white jersey and finishing third overall on his breakout Vuelta in September.

A traditionally gruelling race, in its 75th edition, the route includes seven steep climbs, one fewer than last year, as well as 11 stages that feature medium-to-high mountains in Spain and France.

Pure climbers such as the Colombians Nairo Quintana and Miguel Angel Lopez will see plenty of scope to plot their campaigns despite the two longish time-trials.

“La Vuelta remains faithful to its commitment to innovation and to its dedication to being international,” said the event’s Director General Javier Guillen.

“In 2020, we will undoubtedly host one of the most important European sports events, visiting four European Union (EU) countries: the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Portugal.

“Spain is still our home, the place that reminds us where we came from and where we are headed but it also pushes us to grow as a competition and to progress even further.”