• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 21 Preview

The final mountain stage of the Vuelta promised and delivered, it was a full-on day, a lot of fog and rain marked the day but as for the pace it was also on since the first climb, with Movistar and Astana trying to put men in front but Jumbo responding to each one. Astana took up charges of the peloton on the climb before Peña Negra and there they set it up for Lopez who attacked but never made the difference, but when Pogacar attacked 4Km away from the finish the gap came immediately, no-one responded and Movistar chased, in the final two climbs there were some moves, but only in the final climb Valverde moved to save his second place, but Pogacar arrived solo and climbed onto the podium.

Positive: Pogacar with the strongest of attacks, was clearly the strongest rider which came as a big surprise as he seemed to be struggling in Navacerrada. Roglic finished his flawless Vuelta, only crashes had him loosing time. Several strong performances today, to note only Nieve climbed onto the Top10 in his final chance.

Negative: Quintana loosing his podium place, Lopez lacking the legs to make the difference and James Knox who suffered after his crash yesterday and fell out of the Top10.

The Route

And the final stage which is familiar by now, with the circuit in Madrid to take the honours once again in an interesting finish that gives the sprinters that have resisted this brutal race another opportunity to top things of.

It's a circuit finish and despite there being some shallow gradients either up or down the final avenue it should be no bother for the sprinters.

The Weather

It will rain a lot overnight and in the morning but luckily the forecast gives prospects of dry weather for the afternoon. The roads may still have traces of water in it which may mean a somewhat dangerous finale.

One final showdown

Tomorrow is a pure day for the sprinters, it is every year and won't be no exception here, and there are quite some riders ready to take it on. Well let's see of who resisted all the way to Madrid, making it is already a win.

There's Sam Bennett who is the big favourite and the finish suits him, although, he has no team with just Archbold to be with him towards the end. Luckily it's a short stage, but if the other big team, this one in numbers, Deceuninck, go on the attack near the end it can be dangerous. Although Gilbert and Cavagna have already three wins between them, I wouldn't be surprised to see Stybar and Richeze to try something there in the final kilometer as Jakobsen doesn't like the gradients and isn't at the same level of Bennett, so they can innovate as they have so far. Although, Bennett has been having quite a lot of fatigue so it may balance out.

The rivals, well the riders we've been looking at for the last three weeks, although the sprinters didn't show up that much. So let's divide them by two categories.

Those who like these slight gradients in the end. Edward Theuns the first name that pops to mind, it's an ideal finish for him the question is wether he has the power to fight it out for the win, the Caja Rural duo of Jon Aberasturi, who should be the bet, and Alex Aranburu can work great in these circumstances. There's Nikias Arndt, he usually does have great legs in the third week but he's been on the attack a lot so I doubt, Walscheid may struggle but he will be the bet. There's Jonas Koch and Szymon Sajnok, Clement Venturini, and although it isn't quite steep enough there's no reason not to think of Tosh van der Sande as the sprinter list isn't the best.

As for those who don't, sadly I'll mention Gaviria, in his old days he was one of the best sprinters when it came to climbing but since joining UAE that quality of his just disappeared, he has came down the ranks a lot. Still it isn't quite that hard and he's been hiding very well these last few days, no extra efforts and saving himself for tomorrow, together with him I'd have Marc Sarreau, not the worst of climbers but he doesn't cope very well.

Prediction Time

S.Bennett, Jakobsen

Gaviria, Theuns, Aberasturi, Richeze

Stybar, Sarreau, Sajnok, Venturini, Walscheid

It's just hard to go against him I admit. When I bet against him in Oviedo he took an easy win, and in Toledo he looked even better, so there's really no argument against him. Even alone he's quite good at positioning, a lot of teams will be giving it the beans so escapees aren't likely to succeed, and in a sprint he is the fast man.

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