La Vuelta a España outcomes: Review of the season's last grand tour
Sep 06 2021 08:14 pm CET

La Vuelta a España outcomes: Review of the season's last grand tour
La Vuelta a España outcomes: Review of the season's last grand tour
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The final Grand Tour of the season just finished, and it is time to examine the main outcomes that it left to the cycling world, including its formidable winner, the young riders that delivered promising performances, teams excelling at strength and strategy and riders that we couldn’t see at their prime.

By Marcelo Hernández

Slovenian rider Primoz Roglic obtained his third overall victory in the Vuelta a España and with this achievement matched Tony Rominger’s and Roberto Heras’ record of three consecutive victories in the Spanish Grand Tour and is now tied with Rominger in the 2nd spot on the list of most GC wins, being only one short from Heras. The time gap that Roglic was able to gain over the 2nd rider in the podium, Enric Mas, is the largest one we have seen in the Vuelta since 1997, a fact that highlights the superiority of the Slovenian against his rivals throughout the last three weeks.

After such powerful performances from Roglic such as those in Lagos de Covadonga and the final ITT in Compostela, there is a lot of expectation for a duel between him and his fellow countryman Tadej Pogacar during the next season. Of course, Roglic has been one of the main candidates for three week races for more than a couple of years now, and rightfully so, but this third Vuelta title and the way it was achieved dissipated any possible doubt about his place as one of the top Grand Tour riders of our time. So it is almost inevitable to wonder how a match between him and the other Grand Tour personality of the season Tadej Pogacar could unfold.

Roglic is maybe the only current GC favourite that can match Pogacar’s strength in time trialling, since other top riders in this field such as Tom Dumoulin or Geraint Thomas are facing somewhat instable times right now, the first one coming back from a hiatus and the former one about to change team for the next season.

Beyond the chances of a spectacular cycling battle between the two Slovenian riders in the next Tour de France, Roglic’s powerful performances in a wide range of terrains and overall in ITT reminded the entire world that he is one of the most formidable rivals for three week races, even when he doesn’t have the strongest team of the race behind him.

If we talk about teams that were impressive in this Vuelta, of course that we have to talk about the absolute winner of the Teams Classification: Bahrain Victorious. But we should also mention other two teams that maybe have more discrete objectives and don’t always get the spotlight, but that excelled during the race: DSM and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux.

Intermarché delivered an extraordinary performance during the whole Vuelta, but particularly during the second week. Inspired by the defence of the red jersey of Odd Christian Eiking, the Belgian team gave everything and managed to keep in line some of the strongest teams for the whole week. It is true that in some key stages the team wasn’t exactly challenged by the GC teams, but that doesn’t mean that they got an easy time. It takes a lot of effort, good legs and clear minds to defend the jersey as they did. And let’s not forget that prior to Eiking, they already got the red jersey and a stage victory on stage 3 with Rein Taaramäe. What an absolutely astonishing Vuelta from them!

About DSM, the team arrived to Spain with a very interesting roster and in pursuit of stage victories, an objective they accomplished with three stage wins: two with Michael Storer and one with Romain Bardet. They also monopolized the Mountain classification during the third week with both riders, and at the end of the race, the King of the Mountains title went to Storer. Just to mention this result is, however, not enough to praise the performance of DSM given that its riders were a permanent presence in the most important breakaways and fought hard for every one of them with Storer, Bardet, Chris Hamilton or Thymen Arensman, and of course managing to also play a role in the bunch sprints with Alberto Dainese. The collective work of this team was truly remarkable.

Other teams besides the GC ones that did a great job at this Vuelta were of course team UAE Team Emirates, Deceuninck-Quick-Step -working for Fabio Jakobsen, AG2R Citroën. And a rider that delivered the Grand Tour performance of a lifetime, vindicating his team’s effort, was the one and only Magnus Cort Nielsen, who took three stage victories and an amazing second place at the final ITT.

And lastly, there is a young rider that made a great Vuelta and as reward won the Youth classification: Gino Mäder. The rider from Bahrain Victorious had a roller coaster of a season this 2021: he lost a stage dramatically to Primoz Roglic at Paris-Nice, but won the final stage of the Tour de Suisse; then won a stage at the Giro d’Italia just to be forced to abandon a few days later because of a crash, and now he has won the Youth classification of a Grand Tour and against an amazing rival such as Egan Bernal.

Mäder was a consistent rider during the whole three weeks, which is a difficult thing to do in a race as hard and demanding as this one. And arrived to the last few stages with very good legs after having faced several hard stages at really high paces and in several occasions under hard weather conditions. All of these even when he didn’t have the entire team behind him, and after the first week, he had to permanently be ready to give a hand to Jack Haig and his podium enterprise. Great legs, intelligence and a good skill to regulate his efforts, all of these make us wonder what else can we see from him in the next seasons.

Of course, there are other subjects that are interesting to talk about after a three weeks’ race, but these that we just discussed are among the most relevant. The Grand Tours are over for this season, but there are still several great races on the horizon and even when cycling fans may experience a little nostalgia for the main stage races, there is still a lot of word class cycling to enjoy.



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