Nine days from now, the 2022 edition of La Vuelta a España will start in The Netherlands. Three major cities, Utrecht, ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Breda, will be the host cities and the second stage will start in my hometown. When I saw that the neutralised start is an over 7-kilometre-long ride through the historic city centre, and that the route passes my front door, I decided to film that route for this post.
The Netherlands is proud to host La Vuelta 22, on the 19th, 20th and 21st of August 2022. The teams and (international) top cyclists, will be presented in Utrecht and there will be three stages in Utrecht and Brabant and an extensive side events programme. Javier Guillén, the general director of La Vuelta, seems also happy to come back to the Netherlands. He said:
“We finally return to Utrecht, Breda and ʼs-Hertogenbosch, without losing even an ounce of our enthusiasm. In a special year, when all of the Grand Tours are having official departures abroad, we look forward to what will be an unforgettable official start in an authentic cycling paradise like the Netherlands”.
This start of La Vuelta in The Netherlands was originally planned for 2020, but due to the Covid19 pandemic it had to be postponed. In 2021, much to the delight of the organisation in the Netherlands, La Vuelta decided that the postponed tour would take place in 2022 after all. The same 34 municipalities and other authorities joined forces again; and what a list that is: the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Utrecht, the cities of Breda, ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Utrecht and the private partners. The presentation and the first stage will take place in Utrecht.
The following day, on Saturday 20th of August, the peloton will start in ʼs-Hertogenbosch for a stage back to Utrecht. Alderman Huib van Olden of ʼs-Hertogenbosch said: “We are proud to welcome the international top cyclists to the heart of our city. Everyone is therefore cordially invited to give the riders a warm welcome to ʼs-Hertogenbosch. We will be celebrating the whole day with the ‘Plaza Vuelta’ as the sparkling centrepiece.”
Given the nature of the Netherlands it will be a mostly flat stage of 175.1 km. Former Spanish road racing cyclist Fernando Escartín described it as follows on the official site of La Vuelta.
“A primarily flat stage. The only obstacle on the day will be a third category climb that will determine the first riders to fight for the mountain jersey. Victory will be decided in a sprint to the finish-line. The proximity to the sea could provoke strong winds and add to the stage’s unpredictability.”
The people of ʼs-Hertogenbosch look forward to be hosting the start of the second stage. People do talk about it. La Vuelta and the many side events will make it a great day for the city. At 13:15 a neutralised start is planned in the citadel, a fortress north of the city centre. From there a long route takes the tour through the narrow and winding streets of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. The council seemed determined to make sure people around the world get to see the best parts of the city. After well over 7 kilometres the race then officially starts in the outskirts of the city at around 13:33. The route then ultimately goes to Utrecht, where the finish is planned around 17:00 hours.
This neutralised start is exceptionally long, but it is designed to give all the people in ‘s-Hertogenbosch a good spot from where to see the riders. As mentioned before I will not have to go far, because they will pass my house. I cycled and filmed the entire neutral part of the second stage and ended my video where the actual race will start.
The city announced there will be no fences alongside the route, but I do hope some of the very narrow streets in the centre will be closed off, they are barely wide enough for one car, let alone an entire peloton and the proceeding vehicle caravan.
ʼs-Hertogenbosch belonged to the Spanish Netherlands until 1629, when the city was conquered by the Dutch prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange, against the wishes of the catholic city. The city has names in many versions and languages including one in Spanish: Bolduque. According to the official Vuelta site the city name was the source of the Spanish equivalent of “red tape”; balduque (something at least one dictionary confirms). With that in mind it is maybe not so strange that the city makes the Spanish tour go back and forth in the winding streets of modern day “Bolduque”.
For ʼs-Hertogenbosch it is the second big international cycling tour the city may welcome. In 1996, the city hosted the Grand Depart of the Tour de France. Utrecht is apparently the only city to host all three major cycling tours. After being the finish city of the second stage of the Giro d’Italia (2010) and organising the Grand Depart of the Tour de France (2015), the Vuelta is the third and last big international multiday cycling tour to be held in Utrecht.
It is only the fourth time that La Vuelta a España will have a start outside of Spain. Portugal was the first foreign country to host the tour, when it departed from Lisbon, in 1997. In 2009 La Vuelta started from Assen, also in the Netherlands, and finally in 2017 it started in the city of Nîmes in France. A stage from Breda to Breda concludes this year’s stay of La Vuelta in the Netherlands.
In the video you will see that there is almost no dedicated cycling infrastructure in the historic city centre. Most of that area is a traffic calmed 30km/h zone and other parts are pedestrianised (while cycling stays permitted). The ring directly around that centre has on-street cycle lanes that are not really best practice. It is only at the end of the video, after leaving the city centre, that the good cycling infrastructure appears. I did cycle on the cycle paths, but the race takes place on the closed car lanes.