For the first time in its history, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will be at the start of the Vuelta a Espana (2.UWT, 14/8-5/9). After a successful Giro d’Italia with a stage victory for Taco van der Hoorn and Tour de France with 14th in GC for Louis Meintjes, the team will tackle its third Grand Tour of the season. Just like the two other three week events, this year’s Vuelta is exclusively scheduled within the Spanish borders. Amaury Sport Organization wanted to create a cultural theme around this “Vuelta de las Catedrales”. The race will start on August 14 with a prologue of 8 kilometers in front of the Cathedral of Burgos and will end after three weeks, on September 5th, again with an effort against the clock of 33 kilometers. This year, the city that received the privilege of closing the Vuelta is Santiago de Compostela. By doing so, the organizers took a break with the tradition of the criterium in the streets of Madrid.
In addition to these two individual time trials, the route includes seven mountain stages, six flat stages, four medium mountain stages and two hilly stages. The flat stages are mainly concentrated in the first week around the province of Burgos, but the contenders for the general classification will have no opportunity to rest on their laurels. Indeed, they will have to cope with a constant risk of echelons and the finish of the third stage, considered a flat one, will be atop Picon Blanco.
From northern Spain, the peloton will then head to the Mediterranean coast in the northeast for a first mountain stage. On the seventh day, the new ascent of the Balcón de Alicante will be the arena of the first explanations in the mountains. Just before the first rest day, the peloton will face another summit finish atop the famous Alto de Velefique, the first of three hors catégorie climbs. After the second rest day, the peloton will head to Asturias, with finishes at the ruthless Lagos de Covadonga (seventeenth stage) and for the first time at the Alto d’El Gamoniteiru (eighteenth stage).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux is sending an experienced team to Burgos. All riders have finished Grand Tours and the age of the youngest rider, Riccardo Minali, is 26. The line up has already nice achievements at the Vuelta on their palmares. In 2011, Rein Taaramäe won a mountain stage with finish on top of Lagos de Somiedo and Louis Meintjesfinished 10th (2015) and 12th (2017) in the general classification. The Vuelta 2021 will be the fifth participation for the Estonian rider, the South-African will be at the start for the seventh time. Also the other climbers within the selection of the team, the Italian rider Simone Petilli and the Czech rider Jan Hirt, participated to the Tour of Spain before. Both finished the Giro earlier this year, just like Minali, Taaramäe and the Dutch rider Wesley Kreder. For Belgian rider Kévin Van Melsen and Norwegian rider Odd Christian Eiking, 2nd at the Arctic Race of Norway last week, it is the first Grand Tour of the season. Sports directors Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon will guide the team.
Vuelta a Espana:
Stage 1 (14/08): Burgos – Burgos (7,1km) (= ITT)
Stage 2 (15/08): Caleruega – Burgos (169,5km)
Stage 3 (16/08): Santo Domingo de Silos – Espinosa de Las Monteros (203km)
Stage 4 (17/08): El Burgo de Osma – Molina de Aragon (163,6km)
Stage 5 (18/08): Taracon – Albacete (184,4km)
Stage 6 (19/08): Requena – Alto de la Montana de Cullera (159km)
Stage 7 (20/08): Gandia – Balcon de Alicante (152km)
Stage 8 (21/08): Santa Pola – La Manga del Mar Menor (163,3km)
Stage 9 (22/08): Puerto Lumbreras – Alto de Valefique (187,8km)
Stage 10 (24/08): Roquetas de Mar – Rincon de la Victoria (190,2 km)
Stage 11 (25/08): Antequera – Valdepenas de Jaen (131,6km)
Stage 12 (26/08): Jaen – Cordoba (166,7km)
Stage 13 (27/08): Belmez – Villanueva de la Serena (197,2 km)
Stage 14 (28/08): Don Benito – Pico Villuercas (159,7km)
Stage 15 (29/08): Navalmoral de la Mata – El Barraco (193,4km)
Stage 16 (31/08): Laredo – Santa Cruz de Bezana (170,8km)
Stage 17 (01/09): Unquera – Lagos de Covadonga (181,6km)
Stage 18 (02/09): Salas – Altu d’El Gamoniteiru (159,2km)
Stage 19 (03/09): Tapia – Monforte de Lemos (187,8km)
Stage 20 (04/09): Sanxenxo – Mos. Castro de Herville (173,6km)
Stage 21 (05/09): Padron – Santiago de Compostela (33,7km) (= ITT)
Odd Christian Eiking
Kévin Van Melsen
Images: Marie Pirard Illustration