Records and legends on the course of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by

April 12 th 2024 - 12:00 [GMT + 2]

La Vuelta Femenina 24 by will kick off on April 28th, with a team time trial in Valencia starting from the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – the City of Arts and Sciences, a beautiful complex offering projections, exhibitions and workshops relating to many different fields of knowledge. So did the 2002 edition of men’s La Vuelta. Back 22 years ago, the riders headed north and rode along the Turia river to later end their effort just in front of the Puente del Mar. This year’s TTT, a unique race in the UCI Women’s WorldTour, will instead set off towards the south to visit the Parque Natural de la Albufera, a protected natural area famous for its biodiversity and cherished by birdwatchers, to take a 180º turn after eight kilometres and ride back to Valencia to end up at the Oceanogràfic, an aquarium located inside the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.

Right after the TTT, the peloton of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by will enjoy three relatively flat stages. The first one joins Buñol and Moncofa – two towns whose populations hardly total 20,000 inhabitants between both of them and that have not held the start nor the finish of any professional cycling race in this century. Stage 3 will in turn begin from Lucena del Cid, a charming town enclosed in the Castellón mountains. On its surroundings we find the Alto de Mas de la Costa, a climb that has decided two stages of the men’s La Vuelta in 2016 and 2019, won by Switzerland’s Mathias Frank and Spanish cycling legend Alejandro Valverde.

Next April 30th, though, the main climb will be the Alto de la Fuente de Rubielos, the appetizer of choice whenever La Vuelta has finished a stage at the Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre, an astronomical observatory sitting at the summit of a long, dragging ascent on which last year Sepp Kuss triumphed and grabbed La Roja – the race’s Red leader jersey that he later took home. The stage will finish in Teruel, a small city that saw Frank Vandenbroucke raise his arms in victory back at La Vuelta 1999 – and Eddy Merckx falling a few centimeters shy of doing so in the 1973 edition of the Spanish men’s Grand Tour.

Castilla – La Mancha was proclaimed European Region of Sport in 2024, and as to commemorate this feat is hosting the start of the fourth stage of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by and the finish of the seventh in Molina de Aragón and Sigüenza. Both towns belong to Spain’s ‘Ice Triangle’ – that is, the area on which the coldest temperatures in the country are registered every year. Molina de Aragón, in particular, is deemed to be Spain’s coldest town by average temperature – and it indeed froze down to -16ºC in February 2023. The riders are gladly visiting it in May …

La Vuelta Femenina 2003 - 1st Edition - 3rd stage Elche de la Sierra - La Roda 157,8 km - 03/05/2023 - Scenery - photo Rafa Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2023
La Vuelta Femenina 2003 - 1st Edition - 3rd stage Elche de la Sierra - La Roda 157,8 km - 03/05/2023 - Scenery - photo Rafa Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2023 © SprintCyclingAgency©2023

 … Although they shall be careful with the wind, as stage 4 is finishing in Zaragoza, and this city is famous by its ‘cierzo’ wind. The ‘cierzo’ was indeed instrumental for Igor González de Galdeano to clinch what remains the fastest-ever road race stage in a grand tour to this day. It was the 9th stage of La Vuelta 2001 – 172,2 kilometres from Logroño to Zaragoza, ridden at an impressive average speed of 55,176 kph.

Zaragoza’s place in female cycling’s history is also a privileged one. The capital city of Aragón hosted the first-ever Spanish national championship for women in 1979. Mercedes Ateca was the gold medalist, with the bronze going to local rider María Victoria Fustero – a woman who would later work for many years as a doctor for the Spanish national cycling team. The tradition of women’s cycling in Zaragoza wrote another beautiful chapter with the Critérium Fiestas del Pilar, an exhibition, post-season event that was devoted to professional female riders between 2003 and 2005.

At La Vuelta Femenina 24 by there will be flat – and there will be climbs! The Spanish female grand tour will be decided by three summit finishes that have all three been used before in the men’s version of the event. First will come the Fuerte Rapitán, a steep, devilish ascent in the outskirts of Jaca on which Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodríguez landed an excellent victory in 2012. That day the race will start from Huesca and hit mid-way through the stage the slopes that lead to the Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, an impressive, monumental set of churches and abbeys from different centuries. From there they will descend to Jaca, birthplace to José María Javierre, a.k.a. Joseph Habierre – Spain’s pioneer Tour de France rider.

Stage 6 will take off from Tarazona, the town that held the dramatic individual time trial that sent Nairo Quintana home while wearing La Roja in La Vuelta 13, to later reach the Laguna Negra de Vinuesa, a glacial site in the Picos de Urbión. Ireland’s Dan Martin was the first rider to ever win here in this ascent during La Vuelta 20, while last year it was Jesús Herrada who claimed victory up there after a long-range breakaway. The following day, the race will go from San Esteban de Gormaz to Sigüenza, where an uphill finish will force GC riders to be in contention until the very last pedal stroke.

Everything will be set up then for the race finale – a mountain showdown, like last year at Lagos de Covadonga. The peloton will start from Distrito Telefónica, the vast complex that Spain’s main telecommunications operators has in the outskirts of Madrid, and head north to find the Puerto de Morcuera. This is a climb that was first showcased in a cycling race back in the 70s by La Vuelta itself. On its slopes we saw Tom Dumoulin succumb to Astana’s efforts and surrender La Roja to Fabio Aru in the second-to-last stage of the 2015 edition. Once Morcuera is crested, a fast descent will lead to the climb to Valdesquí, a winter sport complex in the limit between the Comunidad de Madrid and Castilla y León. The ascent to Valdesquí is an extension of the traditional Puerto de Cotos – another usual feature in men’s La Vuelta traditional final stages in the mountains around Madrid.

To finish La Vuelta Femenina 24 by in the Madrid area is not only a salutation to the men’s La Vuelta – it also pays a tribute to the history of Spanish women’s cycling. Despite a number of precedents in Barcelona, Valencia or Madrid itself, the first-ever official female cycling race in Spain was held in 1935 at El Pardo, a ward outside the Spanish capital that is distinguished by its large green areas. The winner was Faustina Valladolid, a woman who was later denied the right to participate in professional, male-only cycling events despite her club’s stubborn attempts and arguments. That first-ever race was 14,4-kilometers long – thus, shorter than Valencia’s 16-kilometre opening TTT. Only 10 riders entered the race – nothing to do with the peloton of 147 riders spread over 21 teams that will take part in the second edition of La Vuelta Femenina by Times have changed!

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