For this year’s edition of the Vuelta a Andalucía it looks like the organisers all dropped some acid and then decided on the route. The result is one of the most ridiculously challenging races you’re likely to see. Every single stage ends with an uphill finish, and we see the return of some old favourites. I like it, I like it a lot.
The opening stage is the Queen stage, it will have a huge impact on the battle for the overall title. This is risky, if someone (Pogačar) rides away from everyone else, the week will be left without the drama of a GC battle, I hope this doesn’t happen. The final climb, which has a ridiculously long name, is around 7km at 7%, it then has some false flat before cresting with just 7km to go. Then there’s a fast descent before a gentle rise to the line.
Scenario – GC day.
The second stage finishes in Alcalá la Real, you might remember it from the wins of Ethan Hayter and Alessandro Covi. Before they get to that horribly steep climb to the line the bunch must negotiate 1.8km at 13.8%, which is at the start of the cat 2 climb which crests with just 21km to go. By the way, the finish is back where it was when Hayter won, that means disgusting cobbles to deal with too.
Scenario – Reduced group sprinting up a brutal, cobbled climb.
The third stage sees the bunch head due south from Sevilla. Current forecasts suggest a lovely cross/tailwind for the whole stage, this race really does have the lot! The stage finishes with a brutally steep climb in Alcalá de los Gazules, which is where Tim Wellens won in 2018 and 2019, but the finish is slightly different to those editions.
Scenario – depends on the wind. If it doesn’t blow, we’ll get a big group sprinting up the final climb.
The fourth stage finishes in Iznájar, where Herregodts and Serrano have won in the past, but the finish isn’t the same. We’re talking about 700m at 11%, after a very demanding final 30km. It’s another brut!
Scenario – chaos!
The final stage is one with several possibilities and it depends on the GC situation. The finish is in Alharín de la Torre, which is where Matteo Trentin demolished everyone back in 2019.
Scenario – breakaway day.
Tadej Pogačar – guess what? He’s in good form! After taking a solo win in Jaén, he lines up here knowing that his legs are good. I kid you not, he’s capable of winning all 5 stages this week, that would get a bit boring. Obviously, he starts as the huge favourite.
Mikel Landa – he’ll have smiled when finding out the organisers have ditched the TT. He started the season in decent form in Valenciana, and Landa used to be my go-to man when the gradient went above 10%. Now 33, he seems to have lost some of his punch, but this is a good race for him. If he isn’t at his best, keep your eye out for Santiago Buitrago.
Enric Mas – it can sometimes take him a little while to find his racing legs, we’ll have to wait and see what his current shape is like as this is his first race of the year. Technically speaking, the climbs throughout the race suit him well, but it all depends on his shape.
Ruben Guerreiro – started the season in excellent form in the Saudi Tour, winning the Queen stage and overall title. Movistar will be delighted to have two genuine contenders for the title, it will help to give them options in what is likely to be a tactical race. Guerreiro has the explosivity to challenge for the win in the uphill finishes, I think he’s certain to finish on the podium.
Dylan Teuns – survive the cat 1 climb at the end of stage 1 and he’s right in the mix. He’s already got some racing in his legs, but he did crash in Bessèges, so hopefully everything is okay.
Carlos Rodríguez – the local boy. Started the season with okay legs in Valenciana and should see the benefit of that race in his legs here. He’s good on steep slopes, but not brilliant. The key for Rodríguez is a good opening stage, he needs to use the longer climbs to his advantage.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – started the year in great form in Valenciana, winning one stage and finishing third on GC. I heard him use the word momentum in an interview and I agree, it’s very important for him to continue at this level and pick up more results in this race. Given his form, he’s a genuine contender for the overall title.
Surprise, surprise, I’ll take a win for Tadej Pogačar.
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