Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vuelta a España: Stage 21 Preview & Favorites

Chris Horner and Vincenzo Nibali gave us an amazing finish to this year’s Vuelta. Nibali attacked several times within the last 6 km but in the end, Horner went away and Nibali couldn’t respond. Valverde had problems in the beginning but he too recovered and secured his third place overall. Kenny Elissonde took a beautiful stage win after a long break and gave France their fourth stage win this race. That’s three more than they won in the Tour. Anyway, let’s take a look at the final stage.

The sprinters haven’t had many chances in this year’s edition. Latest, Bauke Mollema took them by surprise when he attacked on the final kilometer of stage 17. However, I think it’s safe to say that this stage will end in a bunch sprint.

Despite a very tough course, we still have most of the starting sprinters left in the race. One of the most consistent ones is Max Richeze. The Argentinian has four Top3 places so far but he is still missing a stage win - so is his team Lampre and they will be very eager to finish this race in style. A tough final week has often seen an outsider winning in Madrid and that could very well be case again this time. The way I see it, Richeze and Edvald Bosson Hagen are the two big favorites. The Norwegian was clearly the strongest in the sprint when Mollema won but the finish in Madrid is not a typical Boasson Hagen sprint. A short and flat stage with a criterium finish is better suited for some of the track riders like Leigh Howard and Michael Mørkøv. However, I think it will be very difficult to beat Edvald Boasson Hagen in Madrid.

Map of the final laps in Madrid. Click for larger view.
GreenEdge has only four riders left but two of those, Howard and Michael Matthews, are very good candidates for the win. Matthews started out this race and the fastest man in the sprints and if he has been able to keep his speed during the last hard week, his chances are as good as Richeze's and Boasson Hagen's.

Team Argos-Shimano came to the Vuelta with a young team ready to fight in the bunch sprints. Their Vuelta has already been a success but not because of the sprints. This is not their usually sprint team and that shows. However, they are still eight riders left and in Nikias Arndt and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg they have two strong outsiders. Arndt is the youngest rider in the race. Barguil and Kenny Elissonde are the second and third youngest and they have both won a stage. It won’t be easy for Nikias Arndt to win as well but on a good day, he may be able to pull it off.

Tyler Farrar won the final stage of the Vuelta in 2010 when he outsprinted Mark Cavendish. A lot of things have happened since then and now Farrar is not even close to beat the best sprinters in the world. He is very consistent but it almost never gets better than 3rd or 4th place. Farrar is fast on the final meters and if only he could position himself better, he should be able to win. I doubt the American will take another win in Madrid but in this company - no offense to Richeze and EBH - Farrar simply has to be able to win. If not, he may as well just kiss his days as “top sprinter” goodbye.

Before the Vuelta started, Gianni Meerman seemed to be good for at least a couple of stage wins. However, the strong Belgian hasn’t won a single stage yet. This kind of sprint doesn’t really suit Meersman but this has been a tough Vuelta and it’s all about who has something extra left in the tank. Meersman has been doing well in the mountains but I was surprised not to see him in front group on stage 17. I wouldn’t count off Gianni Meersman but personally I doubt he will win this stage.

If you are looking for other good jokers for the stage win in Madrid look to riders like; Francesco Lasca, Robert Wagner, Adrien Petit, Tosh Van der Sande and Zakkari Dempster.

It’s difficult to pick a winner for this stage but if I had to pick one it would be Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Eurosport is covering this year’s Vuelta a España intensively. Before and after each stage you will get inside information from the many interviews with the riders. The interviewer is Spanish journalist Laura Meseguer. She knows what’s going on inside the peloton and each day she will get you her own personal winner picks for the stage.

For the last stage of this year's Vuelta, Laura picks Max Richeze to win.

For live coverage of the stage go to


  1. Another good set of previews. Thank you!

    John - Cov

  2. Amazing blog.
    Only found out about it during the Vuelta when Carlton mentioned it.
    Hooked on it now.
    Thank you so much for the time and effort put in to producing this.

  3. Thank you both very much!
    I really appreciate it!

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