Top 7 "Much Watch" Stages of the 2021 La Vuelta
Starting on Saturday August 14th with three weeks of racing over 21 stages, the 2021 edition will be a purely painful Spanish affair with some new twists
This year sees the race finish in Santiago de Compostela the capital of Galicia, after 3,336 hilly kilometres rather than the typical Madrid, the last stage is a 33.7 km time trial which could upset the GC on the final day.
This year's race is pretty hilly with some new climbs and some painfully krafted stages, here's our take on the stages we think you cannot afford to miss!
Stage 3: Monday 16th August, Santo Domingo de Silos - Espinosa de los Monteros Picón Blanco, 203km
Stage three sees riders take on the first big climbs with a mountain top finish.
Hilly in the early part, the stage finishes with the uphill climb of Picon Blanco, topping out at 1,500 meters, a first category climb with slopes of up to 17%. The climb makes its debut appearance in a Grand Tour, having already featured in the Vuelta a Burgos.
This stage will be the first test for the GC rivals after the opening 8km time trial.
Stage 7: Friday August 20th, Gandía - Balcón de Alicante, 152km
The most demanding stage of the race yet, it features six categorised climbs and over 3,600 metres of climbing.
Finishing with the steepest ascent of the Balcón de Alicante which is just under four kilometres in length and around 9% average gradient.
A breakaway is almost inevitable, however, if the GC race hasn't already kicked off, it should do on this stage.
Stage 9: Sunday 22nd August, Puerto-Lumbreras - Alto de Velefique, 187.8km
A brutal stage containing over 4,500 meters of climbing.
The day's largest climb is the Alto Collado Venta Luisa which is over 20 kilometres long, but this is just is just a warmup for the 13 kilometre Alto de Velefique finish.
An average gradient of around 7% to the summit finish and a rest day the day after, we should see some animated attacks on its slopes.
With the Sierras and semi-desert of Almería providing the backdrop, this should be a stunning stage in every respect.
Stage 14: Saturday 28th August, Don Benito - Pico Villuercas, 159.7km
Halfway through the stage, the Alto Collado de Ballesteros might only be 3 kilometres long, but with sections heading towards 20%, it's horribly steep. Proceeded by a technical descent, should anyone attack, it'll be hard to organise any kind of chase.
Four rolling lumps lead into the final first category Pico Villuercas. Despite a few moments of respite dotted along its slopes, this 14 kilometre long climb still has the potential to put a few GC riders out of contention.
Don't miss this stage, it will be decisive.
Stage 17: Wednesday 1st September, Unquera - Lagos de Covadonga, 181.6km
The centre of this mountain stage features a novel climb for the Vuelta. La Collada Llomena is eight kilometres long and features slopes of 14%. The race's organisers are so sure of this picturesque climb becoming an instant classic that they're sending the riders up it not once, but twice!
After sampling the new climb twive, the day's finale comes in the form of the 12 kilometre Lagos de Covadonga. A well-known, much-used climb, its inclusion signals another pivotal day in the GC battle.
Stage 18: Thursday 2nd September, Salas - Altu d’el Gamoniteiru, 159.2km
The final big climb of the 2021 Vuelta is a monster. The Asturian giant of the Gamoniteiro has never been featured before!
Narrow and twisting, a combination of its 15-kilometre length and irregular gradient should help make it decisive.
Coming towards the end of the entire race and at the close of a stage including 4,800 meters of climbing, if you only watch one of these stages, this should probably be this one!
Stage 21: Sunday 5th September, Padrón - Santiago de Compostela, 33.7km
The final stop in a three-week pilgrimage across Spain, Santiago de Compostela will host the first full-length TT at the Vuelta in over twenty years.
Easily long enough to prove decisive, it's an uncharacteristic climax to a race famous for its climbing. With a dragging first third and a winding, technical route, the race lead could easily change on this final test.
The stage will solidify the GC podium places if there is any doubt!
Tune in daily from August 14 - September 5th for out LIVE Daily coverage of every stage of the 2021 La Vuelta, with daily stage recaps, results and video highlights.