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Vuelta a Espana 2021: preview of all stages

Viva la Vuelta! 21 stages covering 3336.1 km are on the plan for 2021. And unlike last year, the race will be held in the end-of-summer heat once again.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. We have eight flat stages, four hilly stages and seven mountain stages. Throw in two individual time trials and two rest days, and there you have the 2021 Vuelta. As an added bonus, the race kind of skips around Spain, with a number of long transfers.

A bit more detail. The individual time trials (for a total of 40.9 km) bookmark the race as the first and last stages. Both might generously be called rolling, but “mostly flat” is really more appropriate. We have six mountaintop finishes, with the first one coming as early as stage 3.

Our personal and up-close look at these wonders:

STAGE ONE: Burgos-Burgos, 7.1 km, ITT

An individual time trial will kick things off this year. A quick dash through Burgos, starting and ending at the cathedral. And they even managed to find a little climb to build into the course, so that the KOM jersey can be awarded immediately!

STAGE TWO: Caleruega. VIII Centenario de Santo Domingo de Guzmán – Burgos. Gamonal, 166.7 km

And we already have a winner for the longest stage name town start! The sprinters will get their first chance today. It is not pancake flat, but there are some rather insignificant looking bumps along the way. And the day’s intermediate sprint comes only 16 km or so before the finish.

STAGE THREE: Santo Domingo de Silos – Espinosa de los Monters. Picón Blanco, 202.8 km

Enough of that easy stuff, let’s climb! It’s an interesting stage, with a small climb early on, and a lot of bumps before flattening out. Then BOOM! How about the race’s first mountaintop finish, after a roughly 7 km climb with gradients up to 17%? That will certainly get this race rocking ‘n’ rolling!

STAGE FOUR: El Burgo de Osma – Molina de Aragón, 163.9 km

Enough climbing, let’s go flat again. No, not the tires, please, just the roads. Ok, so it is more lightly-rolling than absolutely flat, but don’t be so picky. We’re going to predict a breakaway group vs. a bunch sprint finish.

STAGE FIVE: Tarancón – Albacete, 184.4 km

Two flat stages in a row, and yes, this one really is pretty flat. But wait! Much of the stage is across open areas and that means wind! Echelons! The peloton being blown into many little groups! Let’s just hope that our sprint team is in the first group.

STAGE SIX: Requena – Aldo de la Montaña de Culleray, 158. km

That ominous word “montaña” does indeed give you a clue about the finish in this stage. Ok, it’s only 1.5km and a cat. 3 climb, but still counts as a mountain stage. The course is rather odd, actually. Most of the first 74 km are downhill, followed by pancake flat until that climb comes with 1.5 km to go.

STAGE SEVEN: Gandia – Balcón de Alicante, 152 km

To make up for yesterday’s rather minimal mountain, today we have six climbs, starting with and then ending atop a cat. 1 climb. If we look closely, we can see a handful of flat kilometers, but other than that it is up and down, up and down.

STAGE EIGHT: Santa Pola – La Manga del Mar Menor, 173.7 km

Another sprint day, making it four in the first week. Once again, though, wind is possible, and there are a few bumps along the way. The sprinters will be happy to have some flat roads again, but how will those legs be after all that climbing yesterday?

STAGE NINE: Puerto Lumbreras – Auto de Velefique, 188 km.

What better way to end up the first week than with a rather nasty mountain stage? Nearly 4500 meters of climbing, and with three of the four climbs coming in the second half of the stage. Not enough for you? Then let’s finish atop an HC climb of 6.4 km and an average gradient of 13.2%. Do we know how to have fun, or what?

REST DAY

And a well-deserved one after all that sprinting and climbing! One short day to chill, rest the legs a bit, perhaps think about something else, drink some coffee, and brace for the upcoming racing.

Vuelta a Burgos 2021 – 43rd Edition -3rd stage – Busto de Bureba – Espinosa de los Monteros 173 km – 05/08/2021 – Itamar Einhorn (ISR – Israel Start-Up Nation) – photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

STAGE TEN: Roquetas de Mar – Rincón de la Victoria, 190.3 km

It’s hilly today. That means, almost as flat as possible until the last 30 km, where there is a nearly 11 km long climb at 4.9% up a cat. 2 climb. And then all the way down to the finish line. An interesting concept, we guess.

STAGE ELEVEN: Antequera – Valdepeñas de Jaén, 133.6 km

And it’s hilly again! There is no flat in sight on this short stage. Instead, there is “leg-breaking terrain” with the possibility of high heat. And just before the finish we have the cat. 2 Puerto de Locubin – longish, but with an acceptable gradient. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But shall we mention that after descending, there is a short ascent to the finish line, with gradients up to 20%. Now doesn’t that just sound like a good time?

STAGE TWELVE: Jaén – Cordoba, 175 km

“Hilly” is the key word this week. Today’s offering is, we would say, roughly 70 km rolling, followed by 40 km flat, and then two climbs (cat. 3 and cat. 2) with a flat 10 km run-in to the finish line. And for some reason the race website anticipates a bunch sprint here.

STAGE THIRTEEN: Belmez – Villanueva de la Serena, 203.7 km

No doubt the sprinters will be happy to return to a flat stage today. No doubt they will not really be thrilled at the prospects of over 200 km and extreme heat, but hey, you can’t have everything, right?

STAGE FOURTEEN: Don Benito – Pico Villuercas, 165.7

Time to get down to business! The opener is lumpy, up until the cat. 3 Puerto Berzocana. No descent but directly up the cat. 1 Alto Collado de Ballesteros – only 2.8 km, but on a narrow concrete track with an average gradient of 15%. That’s not enough, is it? Down we go, make a lap of a circuit course, then back up that climb – but this time we go 14.5 km up to finish line at Pico Villuercas. Let’s just hope the riders aren’t as confused as we are.

STAGE FIFTEEN: Navalmoral de la Mata – El Barraco, 197.5 km

What better way to end the second week than with another difficult mountain stage? No mountaintop finish, though. The first third of the day is easy enough, then we have, in order, climbs of cat. 1, cat. 2, cat. 1 and cat. 3. The last climb tops out only 5 km from the finish line, and with no real descent, we can expect the climbers and GC favorites to sprint it out for the win.

REST DAY

Time for the guys to lick their wounds and wonder if they have made a bad career choice. No, just joking! They love their job! Most of the time, anyway….

Vuelta a Burgos 2021 – 43rd Edition – 4th stage – Roa – Aranda de Duero 149 km – 06/08/2021 – Guy Niv (ISR – Israel Start-Up Nation) – photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

STAGE SIXTEEN: Laredo – Santa Cruz de Bezana, 180 km

A flat stage, and one for the sprinters. In fact, the last flat stage for the sprinters! There is a cat. 3 climb a bit more than halfway through. Sure, there will be a break group – and we’re going to predict a large group today – but the sprinters’ teams are going to be damned sure they don’t miss out on their final chance.

STAGE SEVENTEEN: Unquera – Lagos de Covadonga, 185.8 km

Back to climbing again. Today we have four climbs popping up at regular intervals: cat. 3, cat. 1, cat. 1 and HC. In fact, the cat. 1 is actually the same climb twice. If once is good, then twice is better, right? It is the Collada Lomena, 7.6 km long with an average gradient of 9.3% and up to 14%. To top it off, the final climb is 12.6 km with gradients up to 16%. We are all looking forward to this, right? Right?

STAGE EIGHTEEN: Salas – Altu d’El Gamoniteiru, 162.6 km

You thought that was fun yesterday? Just wait! Today we have four climbs again, but “with an elevation gain rarely seen before in La Vuelta.” Three tough climbs along the way, ending up with 14.6 km long climb with an average gradient of 9.8%, but with sections of 14% or more. Those legs are really going to be put to a test today!

STAGE NINETEEN: Tapia – Monforte de Lemos, 191.2 km

What a relief, it is only “hilly” today! Three ranked climbs (cat. 3 and two cat. 2s) in the first third, then nothing but ups and downs. Gonna be hard on those already-tired legs. It looks like a pretty obvious one for a break group to get away and stay away.

STAGE TWENTY: Sanxenxo – Mos. Castro de Herville, 202.2 km

The race website says this one will be “very entertaining for the spectators,” which also means the riders aren’t going to like it. The five ranked climbs (cats. 3, 2, 1, 2, 2) come in the second half.  A “mini-Classic”, a “mini Liège-Bastogne-Liège”, it will indeed be fun to watch.

STAGE 21: Padrón – Santiago de Compostela, 33.8 km ITT

No ceremonial procession into Madrid this year, but an actual racing stage! Will the race actually be decided on the last day? Probably not, but we can dream, right? But as always, we consider every rider who makes it to the finish line today to be a winner.

Text: Susan Westemeyer

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Tour de France: Preview of all the stages

Here, you’ll find previews of all the stages for the Tour de France 2021.

STAGE 1: Brest – Landerneau, 197.8 km

This year’s Tour starts not with a time trial, not with a sprint stage, but with a hilly stage! Hard to believe! And an equally unimaginable six ranked climbs along the way, all cat. 3 and 4. Lots of changes of directions, a good chance of wind and a short but nasty closing climb will make this one for a good puncheur. And we have a good selection of guys ready to take that punch!

STAGE 2: Perros-Guirec – Mur-de-Bretagne Guerledan, 183.5 km

The same fun and games will continue today, with six more cat 3 and 4 ranked climbs. An easy start – (ha ha) — with a sting in the tail: a loop course with two climbs up the Mur-de-Bretagne Guerledan, with the second time atop being the finish line. ASO is really getting things off to a challenging start this year!

STAGE 3: Lorient – Pontivy, 182.9 km

At last one for the sprinters, who have undoubtedly been saving themselves for this first chance at glory. There are a number of bumps along the way, including two cat. 4 climbs, but a nice flat run-in to the finish. There will be a break group for sure, but you know darned well those men with the fast legs aren’t going to let this one get away from them.

STAGE 4: Redon – Fougeres, 150.4 km.

If one flat stage was good, two are better! The puncheurs can put themselves in the service of their sprinters once again. No ranked climbs today at all, and even the bumps look relatively innocent. Again we will probably see a break group but again, we think they will have no chance.

STAGE 5: Change – Laval Espace Mayenne, ITT, 27.2

Time to get rolling along on the longest ITT in the Tour in 13 years (although we see that the stage 20 ITT is actually longer…) Offhand, though, it looks to be more flat than rolling, so how about we put it somewhere in between? It is long enough that we are going to see the GC candidates make their first statements. And of course the ITT specialists want to take advantage of the chance.

STAGE 6: Tours – Chateauroux, 160.6 km

Today we can get all dreamy about the past as we pass by numerous Renaissance Chateaux (which are most likely not nearly as romantic as we imagine). Still, it will be a good way for viewers to pass the time on this flat stage, which will undoubtedly again feature the “breakaway, caught just in time, mass sprint” pattern. With one of our sprinters first across the line, of course!

STAGE 7: Vierzon – Le Creusot, 249.5 km

A whopping long stage, with lots to make it “special”: the longest stage in 21 years, 3000 meters of elevation, and a “spicy finish up the demanding Signal d’Uchon”, making its Tour debut. What more could one ask? Well, maybe the sprinters would prefer something else….

STAGE 8: Oyonnax – Le Grand-Bornand, 150.8 km

The good news is that this stage is about 100 km shorter than the previous day’s stage, and again there is no mountaintop finish. The bad news is that in the last 50 km there are three cat. 1 climbs, giving us just over 20 km of climbing combined, with a gradient of up to 9.4%. Make sure you get those climbing legs screwed on tight today, guys!

STAGE 9: Cluses – Tignes, 144.9 km

Who can forget the stage to Tignes in the 2019 Tour, which was so rudely interrupted by hail, floods and landslides? We certainly assume that the ASO has taken steps to prevent a similar happening this year, and if not, we will be extremely disappointed. And oh yes, there are five climbs between here and there, including two cat. 1s and our first HC!

REST DAY 1, TIGNES

A day to lay around doing nothing except whine about how things have gone so far. No wait, that’s not the riders, that is the fans of those who have not yet won. Our guys will be out on the roads for a short spin before devoting themselves to massage, press work and possibly a nice nap.

STAGE 10: Albertville – Valence, 190.7 km

If there is one word which we do not associate with Albertville, it would be “flat”. And yet, this is indeed a flat stage, as the Tour turns its back on the mountains for a day. Sure, there are a few bumps along the way, including a cat. 4 bump, but on the whole we can expect a nice long breakaway and a bunch sprint at the end.

STAGE 11: Sorgues – Malaucene, 198.9 km

That was a nice little flat stage yesterday, right? Time to get back to business today! Three climbs and then we hit the day’s highlight: Mt. Ventoux! TWICE! And we descend both times! Excitement guaranteed! Except for possibly the grupetto, they may wish to express other feelings.

STAGE 12: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux – Nimes, 159.4 km

In an effort to make up for that monster stage yesterday, the race now gives us two flat stages in a row. There are, as always, a few bumps along the way, but it is definitely one for the sprinters. Oh, and a warning: we can expect wind and echelons!

STAGE 13: Nimes – Carcassonne, 219.9 km.

Flat again. Interestingly enough, although this medieval city has often been used as a finish town, there has never been a bunch sprint. Breakaways rule! How about it, guys? Are you going to let a group get away to fight it out, or dare to make history by marking it for the sprinters? If we had a sprint the day before, we will bet on a break group making it to the end.

STAGE 14: Carcassonne – Quillan, 183.7 km

Welcome to the Pyrenees! There are five ranked climbs, all cat. 2 and 3, so this is officially a “hilly” stage instead of a “mountain” stage. However, with descriptions such as “roller-coaster ride” and “citadel of vertigo”, we wonder! We do have to giggle, however, that they will ride on the Viaduc l’Escargo, presumably at a snail’s pace….

STAGE 15: Ceret – Andorre-La-Vielle, 191.3 km

A nice stroll through the mountains with a finish in lovely Andorra. Four ranked climbs, three of them cat. 1, with the last two in Andorra. Fun climbing and equally fun descending. The legs will for sure get a good workout today!

REST DAY 2

The second rest day, which will be gratefully appreciated. Nothing to do but loll around and admire the natural beauty of this mountain principality. Well, a bit of training and stuff like that may be on the schedule, too.

STAGE 16: Pas de la Case – Saint-Gaudens, 169 km

Today we say farewell to Andorra and hello to France again. This is again described as a “hilly” stage, despite a cat. 1 climb amongst the four ranked climbs of the day. We predict this will be “that stage” where the GC leaders decide to give themselves and their teams a bit more rest, and let a group get away and into the finish with a sizable gap.

STAGE 17: Muret – Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet, 178.4 km

Enough fun, it’s time to get serious. The Pyrenees are showing themselves from their brutal side today. It starts out innocently enough, with a comfortable ride for the first 100-plus kilometers. Then the guys get hit with two cat. 1 climbs – up, down, up, down – before tackling our first mountain top finish. We predict there will be a lot of suffering today!

STAGE 18: Pau – Luz Ardiden, 129.7 km

Apparently yesterday was not enough of a challenge, so they made today’s course even harder. First a couple of cat. 4 climbs to warm up the legs and then WHAM! The legendary Tourmalet, HC, first used in the Tour 110 years ago. But we need more, so we zoom down and the head directly up the HC ranked Luz Ardiden. If we can mix up our sports metaphors, it is time to strip off the gloves and get down to business. We can probably expect to know our overall winner by the end of this final mountain stage.

STAGE 19: Mourenx – Libourne, 207 km.

Another long stage but a flat one. Possibly a break group today, but also a good chance for the sprinters to test their legs before the Champs-Elysées in only two more days. Assuming, of course, that the sprinters have survived all those climbs and gotten in within the time limits. We are sure our guys will still be there!

STAGE 20: Libourne – Saint-Emilion, ITT, 30.8 km

A flat dash through the vineyards today, which may make the ultimate decision as to the final wearer of the yellow jersey. The top guys won’t be fooling around today, and yes, we all remember that the yellow jersey can very easily change shoulders on a penultimate stage time trial. Will one of them take the win today, or a time trial specialist?

STAGE 21: Chatou – Paris Champs-Elysées, 108.4 km

The traditional closing stage. A relaxed ride with lots of chatting, joking, and a sip of champagne along the way. Until they hit the Champs, though, then it all explodes! After they enter Paris and then cross the beautiful courtyard of the Louvre Museum, the peloton embarks on eight laps of the now-famous circuit, with the dramatic ending of probably the most exciting bunch sprint of the year. Good luck to all, and congratulations to all!

— MC to israelcyclingacademy.com