C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

13/09 - Stage 21 - Alcalá de Henares to Madrid - 98.8 km

It’s time for the last stage of this year’s Vuelta a España. After finishing in Santiago de Compostela last year, the usual sprint finish in Madrid is now back on the menu. From the start in Alcalá de Henares, it takes just under 40 km before the peloton enters the Spanish capital.

The riders cross the finishing line for the first time with 58 km left to go. From here, 10 laps of 5.8 km await them. As you can see below, it’s not a very difficult course. However, with three 180° corners, there will be a lot of stop-and-go racing. Particularly the last turn is very important. You can easily lose many positions if you don’t take it the right way. Luckily, the riders will have plenty of time to practice. The last kilometer is slightly uphill towards the finishing line at Plaza Cibeles. Naturally, this means it’s downhill towards that last 180° corner. The riders will approach it in high speed, which means it could very well turn out to be a huge advantage to use bigger gears on this lap, as it will give you more speed coming into this corner. This is especially important if you are planning a late attack.

C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

Compared to the last stage of the Tour de France, where we usually see several strong leadout trains fighting for the front on the last kilometers, this Vuelta is very different. The only proper leadout train here is Giant-Alpecin for John Degenkolb but they have worked extremely hard for Tom Dumoulin in the mountains. They will try to end this Vuelta on a good note but without any help, a break may actually make it today. Trek will most likely try to set up Danny Van Poppel but they can’t afford to play it too cool and look too much to Giant-Alpecin to do the work. If so, riders like Adam Hansen, Sylvain Chavanel, Steve Cummings, Alexis Gougeard, Nelson Oliveira and Maciej Bodnar may be able to take the sprinters by surprise and keep the peloton at bay. Orica-GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey has done it before in Vuelta al Pais Vasco. He may fancy a late attack as well. However, Impey has also proven to be very fast on the line in this race. The Australian team won in Madrid with Michael Matthews the last time the Vuelta finished here, in 2013. If Impey doesn’t attack, I think he will try his luck in the sprint.

On paper, Degenkolb is the top favorite and I’m sure he will be eager to finally get it right and take a stage win in this Vuelta. It will be interesting, though, to see if Giant-Alpecin can pick up the moral after Dumoulin lost the leader’s jersey and a spot on the final podium on the penultimate day of racing. It may fire them up to finish this race on a good note or it may demotivate them. Hopefully, it will be first option.

So far, we have seen five different riders winning the five bunch sprints. The level here is very equal. Therefore, it won’t be a huge surprise if Kristian Sbaragli, Max Richeze, Tosh Van der Sande, Tom Van Asbroeck or Jempy Drucker ends up crossing the finishing line in Madrid first this Sunday afternoon.

Madrid Challenge
Before the Vuelta peloton starts on the 10 laps in Madrid, the women will have their say. Inspired by La Course on the last day of the Tour, the Vuelta organizers have made a similar race on same lap as the men do. You can read more about the Madrid Challenge by clicking here.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.

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