2021 Vuelta Week 1 Review

There is an overused word to describe the feelings riders and fans have towards the Vuelta.

Its ambience.

People often write or speak of the specific relaxed, end of term vibes of the Vuelta. It’s a unique ambience they say.

It certainly works for me.

I spend many a happy hour watching the Vuelta imagining life as a hardened pro cyclist getting to the end of their season and riding round the humid, windy interior of Spain to get a nice tan to take into the winter.

The first week of this year’s race has certainly done nothing to diffuse that stereotype.

There were a couple of flat stages where the organisers prayed for high winds to get the echelons forming. But there was barely a breeze and the riders enjoyed the sun and several sprint finishes.

Where there have been climbs there has been excitement. But Primoz Roglic is in control with rivals such as Egan Bernal clearly going backwards.

Hugh Carthy is sadly at home in Preston by now after abandoning.

Alessandro Valverde suffered a terrible crash before being forced to quit the race. It will be interesting to see how the race develops with his bickering team mates Enric Mas and “Superman” Lopez battling to lead Movistar in his absence.

Sadly, it appears there is no series 3 on their fly on the wall documentary on Netflix. The episode featuring this week’s racing would be a must see.

If this was the Tour de France and if it was Tadej Pogacar in the lead of the race, I would be declaring this one over in terms of a GC battle.

But Roglic has previous (see 2020 Tour, 2021 Paris-Nice) of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

He might be going for a hat-trick of Vuelta wins but in both 2019 and 2020 he was close to losing the race in the closing days. Once through a needless crash when Movistar pushed on and once on the final summit finish when Richard Carapaz went after him.

For those of an English and Ineo bias, the race seems to be slipping away.

Carapaz is fading after his Olympic road race glory and with Bernal losing time on the last summit finish before yesterday’s rest day it might be that Adam Yates gets the responsibility of leading the team now.

However, he is over two minutes behind Roglic and that seems very unlikely a gap that he will cross. Even with two weeks of racing left.

So, let’s enjoy this weeks stages, some sleepy looking towns and wave lashed beaches with the riders swooping past. All mirrored Oakley’s and sun cream as they get through the final grand tour of the 2021 season.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma2034:18:53
23▲1 MAS EnricMovistar Team0:28
34▲1 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelMovistar Team1:21
47▲3 HAIG JackBahrain – Victorious1:42
56▲1 BERNAL EganINEOS Grenadiers1:52
610▲4 YATES AdamINEOS Grenadiers2:07
711▲4 CICCONE GiulioTrek – Segafredo2:39
88 KUSS SeppTeam Jumbo-Visma2:40
92▼7 GROßSCHARTNER FelixBORA – hansgrohe3:25
1014▲4 DE LA CRUZ DavidUAE-Team Emirates3:55

La Vuelta 2020 review

This was the grand tour that looked the least likely to run its 2020 course after a surge in COVID cases in Europe and refusals from the French authorities to let the opening weekend stages go ahead across the border.

But run its course it did and in keeping with the Tour and the Giro it was a cracker.

Primoz Roglic won riding for Jumbo/Visma after a ding dong battle with Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers with the red jersey changing hands a number of times during the race.

In the end it was time bonuses rather than physical gaps on stages that retained the race for the Slovenian ace although one particualar split that Carapaz missed was highlighted as race defining (despite the gap being only 3 seconds).

The truncated opening and full closing weeks featured terrible weather and it was an early race crash that saw Mike Woods of EF Procycling drop out of the reckoning.

That left leadership in the hands of lanky Lancastrian Hugh Carthy and he didn’t disappoint.

He won the queen stage and was still trying to get the race lead on the final Saturday of the race with an all or nothing attack in the mountains above Madrid. Carthy went on to take the final podium spot in third place.

Let’s hope its a sign of more to come!

Sam Bennett and Pascal Ackermann were the sprinters of choice in the race, dividing the scarce flat stages amongst themselves. Aside from Carthy there were memorable stage wins for Woods, who had more freedom after losing time and a brace for David Gaudu of Groupama/FDJ.

It was a fitting and excellent end to a season we will review in due course but which did so well to happen in any form.

2021 is looking to have gaps with the Tour Down Under and Tour de Yorkshire gone already. But let’s deal with next year in time.

Vive la Vuelta!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma85040072:46:12
22 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers6802900:24
33 CARTHY HughEF Pro Cycling5752401:15
44 MARTIN DanIsrael Start-Up Nation4602202:43
55 MAS EnricMovistar Team3802003:36
66 POELS WoutBahrain – McLaren3201907:16
77 DE LA CRUZ DavidUAE-Team Emirates2601807:35
88 GAUDU DavidGroupama – FDJ2201707:45
99 GROSSSCHARTNE FelixBORA – hansgrohe1801608:15
1010 VALVERDE AlejandroMovistar Team1401509:34
2020 Vuelta final GC