Vuelta a España 2021 – Stage 6 preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Vuelta a España 2021 – Stage 6 preview

By David Hunter

Requena > Alto del Montaña de Cullera 158km

It might not look it, but this is a big day in terms of the battle for the red jersey.

Okay, we have a steep 2km climb at the end, but that’s not the problem, it’s the lap circuit before that. The organisers have decided to take the race straight through a farm, I know, what a great idea!

Weather

Another hot one with temperatures reaching 35 degrees. The wind is coming from the east and it will reach around 20km/h.

Echelons

The bunch leave Valencia after 95km of the stage and then spend the next 25km beside the coast, but this section is well protected from the wind by trees and buildings. The problem is when they head a little inland and start two laps of an interesting looking circuit.

We have 2km of this road with a lovely cross/tailwind from the left-hand side. It is very exposed and if the wind blows at 20km/h we’ll get echelons.

The bunch then turn left onto this horrible little road. At this point it’s a headwind, but the road soon bends round and hits due south.

Horrible narrow road and a full-on crosswind, this is going to get messy. Remember that the peloton must cover this twice. The section lasts for around 1.5km and last time round it ends just 6km before the big climb.

The Climb

You might remember this climb, it was used in Valenciana in 2020, the day Pogačar beat Valverde in a sprint. This is the same climb, except we have an extra 100m compared to that day, with a left hand turn at the end. The climb is 2.1km at 8.5%, but it’s harder than the numbers suggest. Getting the inside line for the final turn could be the difference between winning and losing.

Tactics

The wind should make this a very demanding stage. Some will look at the route and think it’ll be an easy day with a tough climb at the at the end, but it should be much more than that. We’re likely to get crazy racing in the final 50km, meaning a much-reduced bunch for the climb and tired legs, but which of the teams are made for the crosswinds?

The blunt answer is none of them. This is not the Tour de France, we don’t have many big rouleurs in the GC teams, that’s what makes it so interesting. I would expect the Wolf Pack to be leading the way, they have the classics riders required to split this, but which of the GC riders will be able to follow? I think it all depends on road position as the wind starts to blow. Ineos will expect to be up there, so will Jumbo-Visma, Movistar and EF. These three GC teams have a few men who can support their GC rider, but there’s no guarantee they make the split. As everyone knows where the race will split the pace will be ferocious, and we’ll likely see some crashes.

Once onto the climb, the composition of the front group will dictate the type of finish we get. If one team have numbers, they’ll obviously have a big advantage, but the final climb is really hard, you still need great legs to win. I think the climb is too hard for riders like Matthews, and even Aranburu, it really is quite nasty.

Breakaway Hopes

Better than normal. Trek-Segafredo are in the race lead, but Roglič is just 5 seconds behind Elissonde, and the climb suits the Slovenian a lot more than the little Frenchman. If the race is altogether at the foot of the climb, then Roglič will end the day in red. It makes no sense for them to chase, even if a GC threat makes the move.

The pressure to chase will be on the shoulders of Jumbo-Visma and Movistar, they have the best options for this type of finish. Jumbo-Visma won’t be overly keen on taking back the red jersey at this stage, will Movistar chase the break? You just never know with Movistar, but they have less domestiques compared to others as they have the trident at this race.

If the break is going to survive, they’ll need a big lead. As I’ve already explained the lap circuit is going to be very fast, thanks to the narrow roads and crosswinds. The gap will shrink at an alarming rate when the peloton go full gas, the break must lead by more than 6 minutes before this point.

Contenders

Primož Roglič – this is his type of finish; he’s won on ramps easier than this. The problem is the crosswind, he doesn’t have many big rouleurs available to help him. Positioning was a weakness for Roglič, he has improved, but it’s still a slight concern for me in a stage like this. If the group was quite large for the final climb, I have no doubts that he would win, but weirdly a smaller group will be harder for him if some teams have multiple riders. He’ll start the stage as the favourite, but this is going to be a complicated day.

Andrea Bagioli – Deceuninck – Quick Step will love the look of the lap circuit, there really isn’t anyone better than them on roads like this. They can use their sprint train to help drive the pace and cause splits in the bunch, hopefully setting up Bagioli for a crack at the stage. This climb should be a good one for him, but Roglič would be a concern.

Alejandro Valverde – he looked very strong on Picón Blanco. Last time we were here he lost the sprint to Tadej Pogačar, will he be able to beat his Slovenian pal? Movistar should survive the crosswinds, but Valverde is here in a domestique role, so I’m not sure how they’ll play the stage. He has a good chance to challenge for the win if he gets the nod.

Enric Mas – if Movistar have options for the final climb, I think we’ll see him attack, he needs to go early and not wait for the sprint. He looked strong on Picón Blanco and seems to save his best performances for this race. The temperatures are due to sore during this stage, that shouldn’t be a problem for the Majorcan.

Adam Yates – he’s another who impressed on Picón Blanco, but the headwind ruined his attacks. This climb isn’t a typical Yates climb, but when you have the legs, you must use them to your advantage. If we get echelons, Ineos will make the front group, and Yates can take advantage of that on the climb.

Alex Aranburu – his best chance is to go in the break, but I’m unsure if Astana will allow him that freedom. The Basque rider is my breakaway hopeful number 1.

Max Schachmann – breakaway hopeful number 2.

Jesús Herrada – breakaway hopeful number 3.

Odd Christian Eiking – breakaway hopeful number 4.

Prediction Time

I’ll take a breakaway win for Jesús Herrada and utter chaos back in the red jersey group. We’ll have to see who loses crucial time in the GC battle.

David Hunter

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2 thoughts on “Vuelta a España 2021 – Stage 6 preview

  1. that is insane! isn’t that a concrete culvert sticking out into the road? how on earth are they going to make that safe? i am surprised that the cyclists union haven’t put in a protest. there’s no way that a bunch will navigate that safely.

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