The Vuelta, the last major cycling race of the year, will be held from the 25th of August until the 16th of September. In Spain it’s all about the battle for the red jersey. And this battle will be played out on an impressive number of interesting stages — unlike in the Tour, where we had to wait more than a week for the fireworks, the Vuelta’s second stage already features a climb to the finish. And it’s not even the most spectacular of the race. We picked the five most exciting stages that you should be sure not to miss!

Stage 9

Sunday, September 2nd

During the first week, the general classification (GC) really begins to take shape with an individual time trial and two stages that end with a climb. Yet the real fireworks start on September 2nd during the ninth stage. Not only will the riders be craving a rest day, which comes the day after, there are also three challenging climbs scheduled. The finish is at the top of the last mountain, after a steep ascent. The mix between fatigue, the expected high temperatures, and a taxing final climb will ensure that we see a lot of cyclists be dropping out.

Stage 13

Friday, September 7th

After the battle on the 2nd of September, the riders have a rest day, and then a few stages that are pretty low key. On Friday, September 7th, the 13th stage will be one for the GC contenders. The stage ends with a ridiculously steep ascent. In this, riders have to deal with gradients of up to 25 percent, and the last three kilometres of the climb average at 19 percent!

Stage 15

Sunday, September 9th

Even in the shadow of the previous Friday’s tough climb, the 15th stage will still be more than a little bit impressive.

In the last eighty kilometres the riders have to climb no less than three heavy mountains — the finish line is also once again uphill. The next day is a rest day, so riders can take some risk in this stage to gain time on the competition or make up for previously lost time.

Stage 19

Friday, September 14th

The last weekend of the Vuelta 2018 promises to deliver fireworks galore. On Friday the 14th of September, there is a 157-kilometre ride scheduled. The last 60 kilometres of the stage feature a rising gradient; the final 17 kilometres are pure climbing on a mountain of the first category. Because of the length of the climb, attackers can gain a lot of time here.

Stage 20

Saturday, September 15th

The Vuelta will be decided in the 20th stage, and you can rightly call this the Queen’s Stage of this year. With its 105.8 kilometres it’s a fairly short ride, but there are six mountains to be finished. Four of them fall under the first category of mountains. So it’s not only a stage where the GC riders cross swords for the last time, it’s also the last stage where you must grab a lot of points if you want to do well in the mountain classification.

It was quite difficult to make choices for this top five. There are certainly four other Stages that are also worthwhile, meaning that, on paper, the Vuelta could be a race that is worth watching from the very first moment.