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The Grand Tours are to many fans the most exciting races of the year, and whilst they take place in France, Italy and Spain only, fans from all other countries have surely envisioned what it would look like if one were to exist in your own country.
Certain enough the mythical Vuelta a Colombia has had a peak of 20 stages back in 1967, but that has taken place during an era where road cycling was a different beast, where steel bikes, dirt roads and long hours solo were a routine among the best. Nowadays, in 2022, it’s become much more of a team sport, where every details matters, the riders have to be conservative in order to win, having strong support is vital, and where races are designed different. This is my idea of a 21st century 21-stage Vuelta a Colombia.
*Throughout the article you will have links to every stage through the La Flamme Rouge website, and in the end you will have a link to the whole route, aswell as it’s maps.
The Vuelta begins outside of the country with a 3-day start in Venezuela, with the opening day in the Táchira region with a stage suited to the puncheurs, the riders will face the Andes early on but it’s a mere sample of what’s to come, the first leader should be a rider who can climb but one that also packs a nice sprint.
In stage 2 the sprinters will have their first true opportunity, it will be in the Zulia region that this will take place where there is nothing but flat roads for the fast men to seize and take glory.
On the last day in Venezuela we have a team time-trial in the roads of Maracaibo, the city of 1.6 million people will be the final place where the riders will be in before departing onto Colombian roads.
The Caribbean sea will be on display a lot throughout this stage, on in theory for the sprinters but with a little trap, making for a transition stage, the longest of the race in fact, where everyone will be on their toes for the little hilltop that summits with 3Km to go already inside the finishing city of Cartagena.
Stage 5 will be another treat for the sprinters before the mountain come, a much shorter day this time, the race heads inland between Santiago de Tolú and Magangué.
On this hilly day we’ll see a bit of what’s to come, as the riders return to the Andes they’ll face a long 222Km long stage with a couple of climbs in it’s center, not a day for attacks but perhaps the first stage suited to a breakaway.
A stage of two halves, in theory a day for the sprinters but having a very hilly first half it becomes quite hard to manage a strong breakaway from attacking and to keep the stage under control.
The first day in the mountains, it will be a constant throughout the race to have incredibly long ascents and a lot of altitude. Will it create differences on this day? Probably not, but it will separate the waters, and at the end of the grueling 215 kilometers the day will end with an ascent of the El Cogollo and a downhill finish in Duitama, going on the opposite direction of the 1995 World Championships finale where Abraham Olano conquered the rainbow stripes.
The Bogotá loop. A short stage but it includes 3700 meters of climbing, the uphill start itself will be hard but the real challenge of the day comes with the combination of the Ascenso Tres Esquinas and the brutal Alto del Boqueron, the first real stage where big attacks and big gaps can be created.
The last mountain stage in this trident of brutes is a sharp one, where the long climbs won’t be the decisive factor but where instead explosive racing is more likely. Still out and around the city of Bogotá the riders will have the first big summit finish in the Alto de Queitame, but not before a brutal sequence of climbs they’ll have to go through on the way.
A rest, for everyone. Colombia features big forested plains and this stage takes the riders inland towards the Amazon rainforest. The route between Villavencio and Puerto Gaitán will not feature any meaningful challenge and will be a reward for the fast men.
The race features an individual time-trial and that comes in the second week, between the big mountain stages there will be this 43.5Km ITT that’ll set some more differences in the GC fight.
The sprinters will once again have the lead, on a short stage. Meta and Guaviare hosted this trio of flatter stages, and soon enough the tough stages will return.
Stage 14 has the hardest summit finish of the race. A stage that, despite being quite hard, has some long flat sections unlike most of the other mountainous days. Cuchilla El Teniente is a steep climb and It’s consistent, a day to save it all for the final ascent and then make the difference.
Stage 15 will be a tricky one. Again, on paper for the sprinters, but that depends on who would resist the slight yet long false-flat ascent into Chaparral, the puncheurs and rouleurs will also have an opportunity.
The shortest (non-time-trial) stage of the race comes on the 16th day, after a set of brutal and slogging mountain stages there will be a completely different challenge on this day, one important to the GC aswell but where an individual and explosive effort will be taken into account, the 79Km long route into Ibagué features a steep explosive ascent just before the finale.
Stage 17 has a very special presence of the city of Manizales, a full day in the mountains that features 3 ascents up to the city, the final 2 sharing it’s final kilometers making for a little circuit that will then lead to a traverse of the city after a hard mix of climbs that aren’t overwhelmingly hard but enough to put on a show.
Stage 18 is the final high mountain stage and it’s designed to be brutal from end to end, perfect for raiding and made for a winner that absolutely deserves it. Over 5100 meters of climbing that feature two really steep climbs where the race can explode at all times.
With the high mountains behind the race heads towards Buenaventura overheading the Pacific Ocean, it’s a day for the sprinters likely but one that can bear a surprise.
The final opportunity to make real differences comes on the penultimate stage, it is in Cali that the race will end but also where the final twists in the GC may happen, it’s not a colossal mountain stage as most have been but instead an explosive and leg-busting circuit with a downhill finish towards the city center.
And to wrap things up, the race ends with a loop around Cali with a day for the surviving sprinters.
Link to the whole route: https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/tours/view/11544
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