The 68th Vuelta a Andalucía (or la Ruta del Sol) started today in the town of Ubrique (Cadiz). On this first stage of the annual cycling tour, cyclists will pass through the Malaga towns of Sierra de Yeguas, Fuente Piedra, Humilladero, Mollina and Villanueva de Algaidas, before finishing in Iznájar (Cordoba) later this afternoon.
The multi-stage race, which goes through the mountainous Andalusian geography, will finish in Chiclana de Segura (Jaén) on Sunday.
The event, organised by Malaga company Deporinter and which can be watched on Canal Sur and on Eurosport, will see cyclists tackle up to 19 mountain passes over the course of five stages.
"There won't be any easy stages," said Lotto-Soudal sporting director Kurt van de Vouwer. His counterpart Brian Holm, of Quick-Step, claimed: "So many climbs will make the race tough and unpredictable."
The sport of cycling is currently at a generational crossroads. On the international stage, veteran cyclists and those approaching their 30s are seemingly being replaced by talented youngsters from Gen Z. Tadej Pogacar, Egan Bernal or Jonas Vingegaard, all under the age of 25, have burst onto the scene and have matured much faster than the more senior professionals would have liked.
In Spain, things aren't so different. The always exciting Mikel Landa, from Bahrain Victorious, is starting his 2022 season at the Vuelta a Andalucía. But the spotlight is instead shining on 21-year-old Carlos Rodríguez, an Almuñécar local who is currently with Ineos Grenadiers.
The youngster is already proving himself, finishing third at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana ahead of Alejandro Valverde or Enric Mas, and he will also hope to better his fourth-place finish at last year's Andalusian tour.
On a regional level, veteran Marbella local Luis Ángel Maté will be joined by five cyclists between the ages of 23 and 27: the aforementioned Carlos Rodríguez, Cristian Rodríguez (Almeria), José Manuel Díaz (Jaén), Álvaro Cuadros (Granada) and Juan Antonio López Cózar (Granada).
Marbella's Luis Ángel Maté, 37, is facing his ninth Vuelta a Andalucía with one clear objective. The Marbella cyclist is aiming to win the mountain stages for a record-breaking fourth time, after doing so in 2009, 2012 and 2021. Maté currently holds the record with Francis Cabello (Granada), who won in 1996, 1997 and 2000, and who currently coaches him.