Vuelta a España 2021: Route, Stages & TV
The Vuelta a España is back for another edition in 2021. Let’s take a look at the route, riders and where you can catch all the action on TV.
The Vuelta a España is Spain’s answer to the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. In fact, all three events are owned by the same company Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO). The Vuelta follows the same format as the other three-week UCI Grand Tours, splitting its stages between flat, hilly and mountain for the duration of the event. The race has been held every August - September since 1995.
Dates: Saturday 14th August - Sunday 6th September 2021
Start: Burgos, Spain
Finish: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Total Distance: 3336 km
Vuelta a España route and stages
This year’s Vuelta a España is held within the borders of mainland Spain unlike in previous years where it flirted with the French and Portuguese borders. Starting in the city of Burgos, the route meanders its way around Spain all the way to Santiago-de-Compostela in the far north west of the country.
Traditionally the race has culminated in the capital Madrid, however this year’s race is bookended by individual time trials, the last of which is in far north west Spain. Late individual time-trials have the potential to be very decisive (see the 2020 Tour de France), so will we see a nail biting final stage during this year’s Vuelta?
Flat stages of the Vuelta a España
Of the 21 stages of the Vuelta a España race, 8 of them are flat stages. Two of these will finish at high altitudes adding to the complexity of executing the perfect sprint. The longest stage of the 2021 edition of the Vuelta is Stage 3 at 203 km. It's flat aside from the sting in the tail at the end which boasts 17% gradients to the summit finish on Picón Blanco. It’ll be a week for the sprinters ahead of the first rest day after which they’ll focus on getting across the finish line first on Stages 13 and 16.
- Stage 2: Caleruega VIII Centenario de Santo Domingo de Guzmán > Burgos Gamonal (169.5 km)
- Stage 3: Santo Domingo de Silos > Espinosa de los Monteros, Picón Blanco (203 km)
- Stage 4: El Burgo de Osma > Molina de Aragón (163.6 km)
- Stage 5: Tarancón > Albacete (184.4 km)
- Stage 6: Requena > Alto de la Montaña de Cullera (159 km)
- Stage 8: Santa Pola > La Manga del Mar Menor (163.3 km)
- Stage 13: Belmez > Villanueva de la Serena (197.2 km)
- Stage 16: Laredo > Santa Cruz de Bezana (170.8 km)
Hilly stages of the Vuelta a España
As the hills of Spain find their way under the wheels of the peloton, fans and spectators begin to appreciate the scenery of Spain. The hilly stages begin after the first rest day when the race heads towards the rolling coastline of southern Spain. The sea views are short-lives however, as the riders then make their way into the stunning peaks and valleys of the Sierra de Gredos Regional Park.
- Stage 10: Roquetas de Mar > Rincón de la Victoria (190.2 km)
- Stage 11: Antequera > Valdepeñas de Jaén (131.6 km)
- Stage 12: Jaén > Córdoba (166.7 km)
- Stage 19: Tapia > Monforte de Lemos (187.8 km)
Mountain stages of the Vuelta a España
With the absence of the Pyrenees mountains this year, you’d be wrong to assume there’s a shortage of altitude. Spain is a climber’s paradise, the first taste of which comes on Stage 7 on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Valencia.The latter stages of the race take place in the Picos de Europa National Park in northern Spain after the second rest day. Expect attacks on the steep slopes and edge-of-your-seat summit finishes as the race reaches its crescendo.
- Stage 7: Gandía > Balcón de Alicante (152 km)
- Stage 9: Puerto-Lumbreras > Alto de Velefique (187.8 km)
- Stage 14: Don Benito > Pico Villuercas (159.7 km)
- Stage 15: Navalmoral de la Mata > El Barraco (193.4 km)
- Stage 17: Unquera > Lagos de Covadonga (181.6 km)
- Stage 18: Salas > Altu d’El Gamoniteiru (159.2 km)
- Stage 20: Sanxenxo > Mos. Castro de Herville (173.6 km)
Time Trials of the Vuelta a España
As we mentioned briefly earlier, the 2021 Vuelta a España features two individual time trials: one at the start, one at the end. The first time trial is just 8 km but it encompasses the city centre of Burgos. Stage 21 is longer at just over 33 km which will mean more of a paced effort. However, with the red jersey (the leader’s jersey) up for grabs at the end of it, it could be a hotly contested stage.
- Stage 1: Burgos, Catedral VIII Centenario 2021 > Catedral (8 km)
- Stage 21: Padrón > Santiago de Compostela (33.7 km)
Who’s riding the Vuelta a España 2021?
All UCI WorldTour teams must take a team to the Vuelta a España as a condition of their licence. Therefore we will see the Canyon-sponsored Movistar Team lining up in Burgos with a strong team of riders. Alpecin-Fenix have been lucky enough to score an invitation to the race, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they make their mark after an already successful season across the classics and earlier Grand Tours. News of the final start list will likely break in the couple of weeks leading up to the event but until then, we’ll enjoy speculating.
Enric Mas came 5th on GC last year and won the white jersey as it’s his home race, we dare say he’s vying for a place higher up or indeed the overall win.
Jerseys of the Vuelta a España
Grand Tours have multiple competitions within the overall race:
General Classification (GC)
Young Rider Classification
The leader of the general classification at the end of a stage wears the red jersey for the following day’s stage. Each rider’s time is accumulated at the finish line of each stage and the rider with the fastest time is awarded the red jersey. The fastest cumulative time at the end of the race is the overall winner of the Vuelta a España. The leader of the general classification at the end of a stage wears the red jersey for the following day’s stage. Each rider’s time is accumulated at the finish line of each stage and the rider with the fastest time is awarded the red jersey. The fastest cumulative time at the end of the race is the overall winner of the Vuelta a España.
Just like the Tour de France, the green jersey is worn by the rider with the most points. The winner of each stage is awarded 100 points and gradually fewer until the 15th rider across the line receives just one point. Intermediate sprint points are available midway through the stages to add to the rider’s total. Movistar rider Alejandro Valverde is one of three riders who have won the green jersey a record four times.
Polka Dot Jersey
The leader of the mountains classification is easily identifiable by the polka dot jersey they wear. Points are awarded based on categorised climbs throughout the race. The harder the climb, the more points are available for the first rider at the summit.
Until recently, the white jersey was given to the rider with the best overall ranking in the general, points and mountains classifications. This prize was discontinued in 2019 and it is now awarded to the best young rider in the general classification.
Where to watch the Vuelta a España on TV
You can watch the 2021 Vuelta a España on the following TV channels:
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