Vuelta a España 2021 – Stage 15 preview

By David Hunter

Navalmoral de la Mata > El Barraco 198km

A day with many possibilities.

As the big climb crests with just under 40km to go, this is a stage that will interest a wide range of riders. Yes, it’s a good day for climbers as we have 3768m of climbing, but this isn’t a huge mountain stage. The climbs aren’t as hard as in previous stages, but non-climbers will be a worried about the big cat 1 climb, you’ll need to have decent climbing legs to win this stage. The winner of this stage will also need to be a good descender, some of the downhills are tricky.

Weather

Another hot one for the bunch, most will be delighted that the race heads north on Tuesday. There will be a nice tailwind for much of the stage, but there are crosswind sections throughout the day. The wind doesn’t look strong enough to cause splits.

Key Points

The first climb of the day is 15.6km at 5%, and it starts after 70km of racing. Will the break form here or will it already be long gone? Climbers will hope it goes here but keeping things together for 70km is tough.

The first descent of the day is a tricky one, it is quite narrow and technical. GC riders will need to be careful.

20.1km at 5.3% is the main climb of the day. It’s not overly difficult, but it is very long. If you are a climber in the break, you must make it count and set a hard pace, otherwise the non-specialists will be able to hang on.

This is the final climb, it is 7.1km at 4.6% and crests with 5.5km to go. Not a hard hill, it’s good for puncheurs.

Tactics

I’ll start with the obvious, this is not a GC day, it’s too easy. Yet again, it’s a day for the attackers.

We have a lot of KOM points available in this stage, DSM will be keen on ensuring Bardet gets in the move. This stage doesn’t look like a day for a pure climber, the cat 1 climb is too far from home. We’ll see a crazy fight for the break, as everyone knows it will go the distance. The flat start is perfect for puncheurs to get in the move, it really is a day that suits them well. I would expect the break to be relatively large, teams with multiple options will have a tactical advantage. The big climb will be important, but riders dropped have a chance of getting back on, it really is a long way from home. Once that is dealt with the rest of the stage suits riders with punch, they should have an advantage over the climbers.

Back in the GC group I don’t expect to see significant action. Those a little down on GC will sense a chance to take back time, but don’t expect to see big moves from the main riders.

Contenders

Andrea Bagioli – this is a good stage for the Italian. He should be able to cope with the big climb and he has a very fast sprint finish. He was very close to winning on Thursday, his legs are clearly good just now. Deceuninck – Quick Step have the team for the flat start, it should be possible for them to make sure Bagioli gets in the move, then it’s over to him.

Mauri Vansevenant – just like his teammates he’s gone very close to winning a stage, finishing second on Tuesday. His skills are similar to Bagioli, both riders will like this day. The team will hope that both men get in the move, they’ll be very hard to beat if they do.

Michael Storer – I don’t think we’ll see a pure climber when this stage, but I’m still including Storer in my list, he cannot be ignored.

Magnus Cort – I don’t care if this stage has two cat 1 climbs, I still fancy Cort’s chances. He is looking amazing just now, climbing well and sprinting fast. If he makes the break the others will be worried, the pace will need to be high on the big climb to put him into difficulty. He’s not one of the big favourites, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he took his third win.

Gorka Izagirre – Astana haven’t enjoyed a good race, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Gorka has the punch required for this stage, he should be the main man for Astana.

Pavel Sivakov – he’s been looking good in this race, Ineos will want representation in the break to protect their lead in the team competition. I’m slightly worried about all the descents, but Sivakov is a good option for a stage like this.

Andreas Kron – he must be a little frustrated, this week the young Dane has failed to make any of the breaks. Fifth in Córdoba was a sign that his legs are good, he just needs to get in the move. The start of the stages have been crazy, getting in the break isn’t easy, but Lotto-Soudal should throw all their resources behind Kron in this stage.

Jesús Herrada – second today, he’ll be back on the haunt in this stage. As I’ve previously mentioned, Herrada is a medium mountain specialist.

Nick Schultz – good climber, punchy finish, he’s a good option for this stage.

Prediction Time

Perfect day for the Deceuninck – Quick Step boys. I’ll take a win for Andrea Bagioli.

David Hunter

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