The 2019 Vuelta a Espana could be decided on roads close to Simon Yates’ home but the reigning champion stopped short of committing to defending his crown at Wednesday’s route announcement.
Organisers unveiled the full details of a 3,272km route which is highlighted by a brutal mountainous stage nine in Andorra.
It was here, close to his Andorra home, that Bury-born Yates effectively sealed his first Grand Tour victory in September and it looks likely to play a key role in determining who wears red in Madrid again.
Though only 100 kilometres long, stage nine will include climbs of the Ordino and Col de la Gallina before a closing section which includes four kilometres of off-road racing and three climbs, including to the Cortals D’Encamp first category summit finish.
“It’s actually a short cut home,” Yates said of the off-road section, which is new to La Vuelta next year.
“It’s very difficult of course, very typical of the Vuelta.”
Though short on famous climbs – aside from the ones it will visit in Andorra – the full route of the three-week race includes a total of eight summit finishes, ensuring the Spanish Grand Tour will be as mountainous as ever – though seven stages should offer something for the sprinters too.
The race will begin with a 24km team time trial in Torrevieja on August 24 and finishes with a stage to Madrid on September 15.
The 26-year-old Yates has already committed to building his season around the Giro d’Italia in May, where he hopes to challenge again having spent almost two weeks in pink before surrendering to Chris Froome on stage 19 earlier this year.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider will then consider the Vuelta depending on his condition.
Asked if the course suited him, Yates added: “I think so. Of course with a team time trial at the start we have a very strong team there, and the stage to Andorra I know those roads very well which we already saw this year.
“My goal is the Giro. I will do everything for that and after that we will plan the rest of the year. I like the Vuelta and if the sensations are good then I can return.”
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity was among the attendees at the route launch in Alicante as he works to finalise details of when the race might start in Yorkshire in the near future.