La Vuelta: Spain’s Top Cycling Tour

La Vuelta a España, affectionately known as La Vuelta, stands alongside the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France as one of cycling’s three Grand Tours. Now in its 79th edition, this prestigious three-week race is the pinnacle of Spanish cycling and part of the UCI World Tour. 

Over the years, La Vuelta has carved out a unique identity, distinguished by its challenging climbs that shape the route each year, offering few chances for sprinters and time trialists compared to its sister tours. The defining feature of the 2024 Vuelta a España route is its formidable difficulty, highlighted by nine high-altitude finishes and the inclusion of legendary climbs like Lagos de Covadonga, El Purche, and Hazallanas in the Sierra Nevada—challenges that have never been faced right after a rest day. This edition also introduces newer climbs, including Moncalvillo and the daunting slopes of Cuitu Negru, adding fresh trials to the already rigorous course.

This year’s race starts in Lisbon on 17 August and ends in Madrid on 8 September. It consists of 21 stages and covers a total distance of 3,261 kilometers.

History behind La Vuelta and its Jerseys

La Vuelta a España was initiated in 1935 by the Spanish newspaper Informaciones, primarily for advertising, much like the motivations behind the French and Italian Grand Tours. Initially held in the spring, the race was moved to September 1995, positioning it as the closing event of the Grand Tour calendar. The leader’s jersey of the Vuelta has undergone numerous changes over the years, transitioning from orange and yellow to gold before finally settling on the iconic red in 2010, a color now synonymous with the competition.

Regarding the jerseys: in the colorful world of Grand Tours, each race has its unique set of jerseys, symbolizing different achievements, with the Vuelta a España offering a mix of traditional and distinctive awards.

Green Jersey: Awarded to the points classification leader, tallied from intermediate sprints and stage finishes, this jersey sees a unique competition between climbers and sprinters.

Polka-dot Jersey: This jersey, with its large blue dots, is given to the best climber, scoring points on each classified climb. It’s especially prized by Basque riders.

White Jersey: Unlike other tours, the Vuelta’s white jersey recognizes the rider leading the combined classification based on the GC (General Classification) standings, points, and mountains classifications.

Red Jersey: The most prestigious, awarded to the general classification leader, identifying the rider with the lowest overall time.

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21 Stages of La Vuelta 2024


Distance: 12 km with 100 m elevation gain

The starting podium for La Vuelta is set near Lisbon’s Belém Tower, where the Tagus River meets the ocean. The flat course stretches along the waterfront, concluding near the São Julião da Barra fortress at Praia de Torre beach. Last year, the race featured a similar flat time trial, but longer, where Filippo Ganna triumphed. 

Lisbon, vibrant with its mix of historical charm and modern culture, from the echoing Fado music in Alfama to the bustling Barrio Alto, is the picturesque backdrop for the race’s start. Nearby, Oeiras, known for its scenic coastline and rich history, including the Marquis of Pombal Palace, provides a serene contrast, blending cultural heritage with coastal beauty.


Distance: 191 km with 2,700 m elevation gain

The Vuelta’s flat stage from Cascais to Ourém is likely to favor sprinters as the race continues north from the coastal town without significant climbs.

Once a quaint fishing village, Cascais has transformed into a posh summer haven and a vibrant tourist spot beloved for its seafood and water sports-friendly beaches.

Perched on a hill, the historic Ourém Castle and its medieval village form the oldest part of Ourém. The village features cobblestone streets that spiral around the fortress. This ancient site, settled since prehistoric times, also houses the main urban area where Stage 2 of La Vuelta 24 concludes.


Distance: 191 km with 2,900 m elevation gain

Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal, peaks at 1993 meters above sea level at Torre, accessible via a paved road. You start in Lousã and head northeast towards Serra da Estrela, tackling climbs before exiting the range to continue south to Castelo Branco on mostly flat to undulating terrain.

Lousã, nestled in the heart of Portugal and surrounded by the Lousã Mountain Range, features the historical Arouce Castle. The town offers a unique pace of life, immersing visitors in Portuguese culture and adventure sports.

The route then leads to Castelo Branco, known for its steep, cobblestone streets and traditional embroidered bedspreads showcased in the Museo Francisco Tavares Proença Júnior. This stage marks the end of La Vuelta’s journey through Portugal.


Distance: 167 km with 3,600 m elevation gain

La Vuelta has increasingly explored Extremadura challenging terrain, featuring new climbs like Piornal in 2022, where Remco Evenepoel triumphed, and Pico Villuercas in 2021, won by Romain Bardet.

Plasencia, a city rich in Medieval architecture in the Province of Cáceres, is the gateway into Spain for La Vuelta 24. This historical city, founded in the 12th century, is known for its well-preserved walls and vibrant old town. It will host the first high-altitude finish of the race in the Jerte Valley.

The ascent to Villuercas Peak was a significant addition to La Vuelta in 2021, marking the first high-altitude finale in Extremadura. In 2024, the route will revisit this climb from a new starting point in Navezuelas, presenting an early and formidable challenge for the contenders.


Distance: 170 km with 1,700 m elevation gain

Named after the Fuente del Corro, a marble square fountain, Fuente del Maestre is renowned for its grand mosaic in the Plaza de España, dating back to the last century. This locality of Extremadura will say goodbye to La Vuelta as the race moves on from this region.

After 14 years, Seville will host a La Vuelta finish line again, recalling its 2010 Grand Departure with a memorable night-time team time trial. Known for landmarks like the Giralda and Torre del Oro, Seville’s stage will traverse Huelva territory, challenging the race’s fastest riders along the Guadalquivir River.


Distance: 181 km with 3,800 elevation gain

The 6th stage of La Vuelta starts in Jerez de la Frontera, close to Gibraltar. Historically a sprinter’s city, Jerez shifts gears with the Puerto del Bojar climb, a 15-kilometer ascent with an average gradient of 5.7%, peaking at 10.2%.

The terrain remains undulating, with shorter climbs like Alto de Ronda, Puerto del Viento, and Puerto Martinez. It culminates in the 9-kilometer Alto de las Abejas, which has a 4.5% average gradient.

For the first time, Yunquera, at the edge of Sierra de las Nieves National Park in Málaga, hosts a stage finish. This village, surrounded by fir forests, offers scenic trails through diverse local fauna and geological features.


Distance: 179 km with 2,000 m elevation gain

The southern stage of the race unfolds on undulating terrain, climaxing with the day’s only KOM climb, the Alto del 14%, named for its steepest gradient. This 8.4-kilometer ascent has an average gradient of 5.3%, leading into a rolling section and a descent before flattening out for the final 12 kilometers.

Archidona, a quintessential white village in Andalusia, is noted for its rich history, from prehistoric times to its peak as a provincial capital in the 8th and 9th centuries. Its Plaza Ochavada, an example of Andalusian Baroque architecture from 1786, and the historic Al-Andalus castle are among its key landmarks.

Córdoba, known for having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any city globally, boasts landmarks such as the Mezquita-Catedral and the Medina Azahara. Celebrated for its cultural heritage, including the Fiesta de los Patios, Córdoba made its last Vuelta appearance in 2021, with a stage won by Magnus Cort Nielsen.


Distance: 159 km with 3,000 elevation gain

The stage kicks off in the historical city of Úbeda, with the first 100 kilometers covering rolling terrain. Riders then approach the 7.3-kilometer Puerto Mirador de las Palomas climb, averaging almost 6% gradient, followed by a lengthy descent through the finishing venue at Peal de Becerro and looping back to Cazorla. The final challenge is a 4.2-kilometer climb with an 8.2% average gradient.

Úbeda, rich in heritage, is noted for having one of the highest concentrations of monuments in Europe and, along with Baeza, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site showcasing Spanish Renaissance architecture amid Jaén’s olive groves. Úbeda is also a hub for cycling, having hosted the Spanish Championships in 2020 and the Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior race since 2022.

Cazorla is a gateway to the Cazorla, Segura, and Las Villas Mountain Ranges Natural Park, Spain’s largest protected area and the second-largest in Europe. This region is a haven for nature enthusiasts and is near the source of the Guadalquivir River, one of the most significant rivers on the Iberian Peninsula.


Distance: 178 km

La Vuelta revisits Motril, the stage start point back in 2017, where Tomasz Marczynski previously triumphed from a breakaway. This year, the riders will quickly head for the Sierra Nevada, starting with a coastal stretch before a lengthy 80-kilometer lead-in to the mountains. The route includes towns like Vélez de Benaudalla, Lanjarón, and Granada, culminating at the base of Alto del Purche—a challenging 9.1-kilometer ascent with a 7.6% average gradient and a steep final 200 meters at 11%.

After descending to Pinos Genil, the course follows a winding road above a picturesque reservoir, leading through Güéjar Sierra and back down to the River Genil. The race then tackles the grueling Alto de Hazallanas, a 7.3-kilometer climb at 9.8%, before a repeat climb and a final 23-kilometer downhill sprint into Granada’s city center.

Motril, marking its return as a host after the race’s departure from Lisbon, is celebrated for its sunny climate and seafood cuisine, including specialties like grilled sardine skewers and remojón salad. With its experience of 19 Vuelta finishes, Granada wraps up the race week with its historic allure, highlighted by the iconic La Alhambra set against the Sierra Nevada backdrop.


Distance: 160 km

The town of Ponteareas, located near the Spanish-Portuguese border, will host the start of a Vuelta stage for the third time. The route begins with the moderate climb of Alto de Fonfría, setting the stage for an early breakaway. This is followed by undulating terrain and two quick climbs, Alto de Vilachán and Alto de Mabia, before reaching the day’s main challenge, Alto de Mougás, also known as Alto da Groba.

The descent skills and climbing prowess of breakaway specialists will be crucial, as the final 20 kilometers after Monte da Groba lead predominantly downhill to the finish line at Vigo Bay.

Ponteareas is notable as the hometown of Delio Rodríguez, a legendary Vuelta cyclist with 39 stage wins and titles in the points classification in 1945 and 1947. It is also the birthplace of Álvaro Pino, who won La Vuelta in 1986 and has a sports center named in his honor in the town.

Nearby, Baiona is celebrated for its scenic coastlines and historical sites like Monterreal Castle. The town is a blend of old and new, with its Virgin of the Rock statue serving as a beacon for sailors, and its beaches and local cuisine attracting visitors from all around.


Distance: 164 km

Padrón, a Galician town known for its connection to cycling and the famous pimentos de Padrón, plays a significant role in La Vuelta. In 2021, Padrón hosted an individual time trial on the last day that ended in Santiago de Compostela, where Primoz Roglic clinched both the stage and the general classification.

The 2024 stage in Padrón is designed for breakaway specialists. It begins with the Puerto San Xusto, a 10-kilometer climb with a 4.2% gradient that peaks 43 kilometers into the race. The course includes multiple laps, with each circuit featuring the climb of Puerto Aguasanta, an 8.7-kilometer ascent at 4.6%, and descends to Gundín.

The final stretch from Gundín, 15 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela, includes a potentially crucial false flat section against the wind. This is followed by the steep Puerto Cruxeiras, a 1.5-kilometer climb at 9%. A 5.5-kilometer descent leads to a flat 2.6-kilometer sprint to the finish.

Historically, Padrón has been a frequent launch point for stages, including the final Portuguese Way of St. James and the last stages of La Vuelta in 1993 and 2021. The town’s cycling club, Peña Ciclista Bernárdez, established in 1956 and now known as the Padrón Cycling Club, is a pillar in national amateur cycling. In 2024, Padrón will spotlight both the start and finish of Stage 11, emphasizing its newly built Technological Campus.


Distance: 137 km

Ourense, celebrated for its thermal baths, has seen La Vuelta start from one of its renowned spas for the twentieth time. The most recent visit was in 2020 when Tim Wellens secured a breakaway victory. This year, however, the race will not finish in Ourense but instead head east for a challenging day featuring repetitive, draining hills. This day culminates in a 22-kilometer climb to the Manzaneda ski station. This ascent averages a 6.4% gradient, peaking at 10.2% in its toughest kilometer.

Manzaneda, known for winter skiing and various adventure sports during the warmer months, has previously featured in La Vuelta. In 2011, David Moncoutié triumphed here, securing a notable lead over his competitors. The area also played a central role in the 2021 CERATIZIT Challenge by La Vuelta, featuring prominently in four stages.

Ourense invites visitors to slow down and enjoy its hot springs, like As Burgas, which have been used for bathing and religious purposes since Roman times. With water temperatures exceeding 60 degrees Celsius, these springs offer significant health benefits and attract thousands annually.


Distance: 171 km

Lugo, the capital of Galicia in northwest Spain, is steeped in history with well-preserved Roman walls dating back to between 263 and 276 A.D. These walls, spanning 2.1 kilometers and featuring ten gateways, are a distinctive feature of the ancient city, once known as Lucus Augusti.

In the last three stages in Galicia, riders head east towards Castile-Léon, facing five intermediate climbs, including three KOM challenges: Alto Campo de Arbre, Alto O Portel, and Puerto de Lumeras. The latter, a 6.7-kilometer climb averaging 6%, sets up the final ascent to Puerto de Ancares. This formidable climb stretches 7.6 kilometers with an average gradient of 8.9%, peaking at nearly 20% in the last 1.5 kilometers.

The Lugo City Walls, a World Heritage Site, encapsulate the old city center, offering a glimpse into the area’s rich Roman past. After a four-year hiatus, Lugo will once more host a La Vuelta stage departure.


Distance: 199 km

Villafranca del Bierzo, a town rich with history featuring a castle, monastery, and several churches, is poised to debut in La Vuelta. This town, small in size but large in heritage, serves as the starting point for the riders who then head east towards Villablino, over 100 kilometers away as the finishing venue.

The stage begins with the 9-kilometer-long Puerto de Cerredo climb, averaging a 4.1% gradient but steepening near the summit, which marks the border between Castilla y León and Asturias. Following this, a 40-kilometer descent—with an intermittent uphill—leads to Cangas del Narcea, after which the route rises again, starting as a false flat and intensifying past Bimeda up to the Puerto de Leitariegos, a 24-kilometer climb at a 4.1% average gradient.

Villafranca del Bierzo, nestled amidst vineyards and mountains along The French Way of St. James, is a World Heritage Site that attracts visitors to its historic center and vibrant winemaking region. Meanwhile, Villablino, situated in the heart of the Laciana Valley Biosphere Reserve, is known for its traditional brañas used by herders. It prepares for its first La Vuelta spotlight during a challenging mountain stage, highlighting its unique cultural and natural landscape.


Distance: 142 km

Since 1954, Valgrande Pajares, one of Spain’s oldest ski resorts, has challenged La Vuelta riders with a grueling 19.5-kilometer uphill ride, averaging a 5.2% gradient. The climb starts gently but ramps up significantly with an 11% grade about 7.5 kilometers from the end. It culminates in a brutal final 2.5 kilometers at nearly 13%, peaking at 24% just before the finish.

The approach to Cuitu Negru is equally demanding. It includes the 7.8-kilometer Alto de la Colladiella at a 7.1% gradient, followed by the 5.4-kilometer Alto de Santo Emiliano at 5.6%. After revisiting the Colladiella, the route descends to Figareo, leading to a 40-kilometer stretch that begins with a false flat and escalates into the final climb after Puente de los Fierros.

Infiesto, located in the Council of Piloñas within Asturias, marks its debut as a stage departure point in La Vuelta 2024. This stage, the first of the race held entirely in Asturian territory, precedes the rest day.

The formidable Asturian colossus Cuitu Negru returns to La Vuelta 12 years after its debut. There, it witnessed a fierce showdown among top contenders like Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, and Joaquim Rodríguez, with Dario Cataldo securing the stage victory in 2012. Riders will face this daunting challenge again this year, vying to emulate Cataldo’s triumphant ascent.


Distance: 181 km

The stage kicks off in the coastal Asturian town of Luanco, nestled among picturesque Cantabrian beaches. Riders begin at sea level and journey through initially flat to rolling terrain, covering the first 70 kilometers with ease before confronting the day’s first major challenge, the Mirador del Fito. This 7-kilometer climb averages an 8.1% gradient, leading into a descent and a short unclassified hill, funneling into Canga de Onis at the base of the Collada Llomena. This climb is particularly daunting, stretching 7.6 kilometers with a 9.3% average gradient, featuring a strenuous 2-kilometer section at over 11%.

After cresting the Collada Llomena, the riders navigate a mostly downhill 56-kilometer stretch with some false flat, culminating in the iconic ascent to the Lagos de Covadonga. This 12.5-kilometer climb, known for its stunning scenery, has an average gradient of 6.9% but includes segments as steep as 20%. The climb, historically significant with winners like Primoz Roglic and legends like Nairo Quintana, marks its 23rd finale in La Vuelta, two years after hosting the Vuelta Femenina’s race finale.

This stage combines coastal beauty with rugged mountain challenges, showcasing Asturias’s diverse landscapes and rich cycling history.


Distance: 143 km

The stage from Arnuero to Santander covers more than just the direct 40 kilometers, extending the route by about 100 kilometers southward to include challenging climbs. The first major climb, Alto de la Estranguada, is reached after 54.8 kilometers. This 7.8-kilometer ascent has an average gradient of 6.2% but includes sections as steep as 13% and features a brief downhill stretch.

Following the descent, the peloton tackles the Alto del Caracol, a 5.1-kilometer climb with a 6.6% average gradient and notably steep mid-sections. Once over the summit, the course flattens out significantly, allowing sprinters’ teams to regroup and position their riders for the final push to the finish in Santander.

Arnuero, the starting point, connects La Vuelta 24’s Grand Departure with local architect Juan del Castillo’s legacy, including his UNESCO World Heritage site designs like the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon. Santander, hosting a Vuelta finish line for the first time in over two decades, welcomes the riders with its iconic Magdalena Palace set against the backdrop of the Cantabrian Sea, celebrating the race’s journey entirely within Cantabria.


Distance: 175 km

Vitoria-Gasteiz, a city known for its environmental commitment, regularly hosts stages of the Itzulia Basque Country and occasionally La Vuelta. Notably, it was the starting point for the 2nd stage of the Tour de France last year, reflecting its strong cycling culture.

The route from Vitoria-Gasteiz features initial minor uphills before leveling out towards the Alto de Rivas de Tereso, a 10-kilometer climb with a 4.1% gradient. This is followed by a downhill and a rolling 25-kilometer section leading up to the challenging 5.4-kilometer Puerto Herrera, with an 8.7% gradient. After cresting Puerto Herrera, the terrain remains undulating as the riders approach Parque Natural de Izki, entering narrow roads that resemble bike lanes and concluding with a 2-kilometer ascent at a 5% gradient before a downhill finish to Maeztu on the park’s northern boundary.

Hosting its 21st La Vuelta stage start, Vitoria-Gasteiz has been recognized as a European Green Capital for its sustainable practices. Meanwhile, Maeztu offers a gateway to the natural beauty of Izki Natural Park, a haven for nature enthusiasts with its dense Pyrenean oak forests and diverse flora. It provides a tranquil escape in the Basque Country.


Distance: 168 km

Four years after a memorable Vuelta stage from Logroño to Alto de Moncalvillo, marked by a duel between Primoz Roglic and Richard Carapaz, the route returns with some modifications but the same challenging finish. Initially, the riders face minor challenges in the first 10 kilometers, followed by a prolonged false flat leading up to the intermediate climb of Puerto de Pradilla, which ramps up over the last 5.1 kilometers at a 5.1% gradient.

Post-descent, the course meanders through Santo Domingo de la Calzada alongside the Oja River, navigating a series of false flats and mild descents. The stage culminates with the formidable 8.3-kilometer climb to Alto del Moncalvillo, averaging 9.2% but featuring sections far steeper in the latter half, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.

Logroño, celebrated for its vibrant lifestyle and rich wine culture, especially along the famous Laurel Street, once again serves as the stage’s starting point. This city blends traditional winemaking with contemporary attractions, drawing visitors to its renowned tapas bars and wineries. The Alto del Moncalvillo, first introduced in 2020 during a pandemic-marked race, reappears as the pivotal challenge of this stage, promising another intense showdown in La Rioja. This is the eighth stage to be held entirely within the region, highlighting its scenic beauty and tough climbs.


Distance: 171 km

The stage culminating at Picón Blanco, known for its rigorous climbs, will likely favor climbers over time trial specialists. Starting with fluctuating elevations, the route includes the initial KOM at Las Estacas de Truebal after 35 kilometers, followed by a succession of climbs such as Puerto de la Braguía, Alto del Caracol, Portillo de Lunada, Portillo de la Sia, and Puerto de Los Tomos.

After a 15-kilometer transition through Espinosa de los Monteros, riders face the decisive climb to Picón Blanco, an abandoned military base at 1,468 meters. The ascent starts gently but intensifies dramatically, with sections reaching double-digit gradients over 7.6 kilometers, averaging 9.3%.

Villarcayo, hosting La Vuelta for the first time in 2024, is no stranger to cycling, having been a part of La Vuelta a Burgos for the past decade. The town was the scene of Primoz Roglic’s victory in 2023 during his ascent of Picón Blanco.

This climb, which was a pivotal point in La Vuelta 2021, will again serve as a critical test just before the final time trial in Madrid. It will set the stage for a showdown in the general classification and offer climbers one last chance for glory on this challenging 9% average gradient ascent.


Distance: 22 km

La Vuelta concludes its final stage in Madrid, deviating from the typical bunch sprint format. Last year, an exciting finish saw Nico Denz, Lennard Kämna, Rui Costa, Remco Evenepoel, Filippo Ganna, and Kaden Groves nearly outpace the peloton, with Groves ultimately sprinting ahead to secure his third stage win and the points classification triumph in the closing meters.

In 2024, Madrid will transform its traditional last stage into a time trial, starting at the Distrito Telefónica north of the capital. Since 2011, Telefónica has been a prominent supporter of cycling through its sponsorship of the Movistar team. The brand will mark its centennial by hosting the cyclists for La Vuelta 24.

This time, the grand finale will take place in Madrid’s ‘Landscape of Light’, with the winners of the general classifications being crowned. Adding to the novelty, the final stage will feature an individual time trial, ending on Gran Vía in front of the Edificio Telefónica, commemorating its 100th anniversary. This shift promises to bring a dramatic close to the race, spotlighting Madrid’s commitment to cycling and its historical ties to the sport.

Read more about famous bike races:

Paris-Roubaix 2024: Route, Tips, and a Touch of History

The 2024 Calendar of Ultra-Distance Cycling Events Around the World

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