La Vuelta a España in ʼs-Hertogenbosch

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.

There are some other events going on in the city, but city hall is decorated in honour of La Vuelta a España of which stage/etapa 2 starts here.

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”.

The logo for La Vuelta in ʼs-Hertogenbosch and the Netherlands. I do wish they wouldn’t have used the H-word. Because all of this event takes place in the rest of the Netherlands. Even the Spanish (mostly) use “los Países Bajos” (The Netherlands) on the official site.

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.”

The route for Stage 2. Although ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Utrecht are only about 50 kilometres apart the route is over 175 kilometers long. Partly because to reach secundary bridges over the six rivers between the cities you need to go back and forth a bit (The direct green route is the A2 motorway and that is going to be used to get everything else but the racers from one city to the other.) Fun fact: it looks like there is going to be cycling on the former US airbase runway in Soesterberg.
The detail that stands out is that incredibly winding neutral start in my hometown of ʼs-Hertogenbosch that I filmed for this post.

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.”

Apart from the banners on city hall there is not much to see about La Vuelta yet, but there are these signs to announce road closures. I expect more flags all over town after the current flags for a festival that takes place until 14 August ends.

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.

My video for this week; the route of the neutral start of Stage 2 (Etapa 2) in La Vuelta in ‘s-Hertogenbosch on 20 August 2022.

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.

9 thoughts on “La Vuelta a España in ʼs-Hertogenbosch

  1. Gacias por tu informacion. Es fantastico que la vuelta ciclista empieze en un pais tan increible como netherland
    En Cataluña existen unas vias verdes que eran antiguas vias de tren.
    Hay una en la zona sur de cataluña, en una zona conocida como “Delta del Ebro” y es una via verde que recorre alredor de 120 km por antiguas vias de tren. No se permite la entrada de coches y existen túneles algunos de cerca de 1 km.
    Desafortunadamente no tenemos vuestro paisaje ni vuestra manera de entender la vida, pero estas vias verdes son un pequeño oasis para quienes nos gusta la bicicleta y amamos esta forma de poder desplazarnos.
    Un saludo des de Calafell en Tarrragona.
    Thank you for your information. It is fantastic that the cycling tour starts in a country as incredible as the Netherlands
    In Catalonia there are some green ways that were old train tracks.
    There is one in the southern area of Catalonia, in an area known as “Delta del Ebro” and it is a greenway that runs for around 120 km along old railway tracks. The entry of cars is not allowed and there are tunnels some 1 km long.
    Unfortunately, we don’t have your landscape or your way of understanding life, but these green ways are a small oasis for those who like bicycles and love this way of being able to get around.
    Greetings from Calafell in Tarrragona.

  2. Do you know where the team busses will be parked prior to the start of the stage? Will this be at the congresscentrum? I am planning to visit the start and usually the start zones are semi open to the public. It would be great to hear your ideas.

  3. Quote from The Guardian: When it comes to climate change, professional cycling faces something of a paradox. The sport is, on one hand, the high-performance version of a climate-conscious form of transit and exercise; governments and activists have long promoted the climate benefits of bike riding. Yet at the same time, elite cycling has a hefty carbon footprint and has long been the brand-washing vehicle of choice for major polluters.

  4. The roads in the Netherlands, I heard, are infamous among the riders because they ride very very fast in densely packed pelotons and never see the traffic calming obstacles before they suddenly crash into them. Our motorways would be better suited for this type of riding, or, indeed the former runway at Soesterberg. By the way it looks like that one small climb would be the Amersfoortse Berg, or perhaps the Amerongense Berg is included as well?

  5. The map is a nice addition to the video, I understand that it’s only because of the race but it’s welcome nonetheless. It would be great to see the route you’re taking in future vids. Thanks.

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