The 2021 Vuelta a España looks set to finish with an individual time trial in Santiago de Compostela. It will be the first time in seven years that the Vuelta finished with a time trial and it will also be the first time the race has finished in the Galicia region since 2014.
According to atlantico.net, the 2021 Vuelta’s final finish line will be in Santiago’s central Plaza de Obradoiro, in front of its world-famous cathedral, with an individual time trial bringing the curtain down on the race on September 5.
The Vuelta, which will start outside another well-known Spanish cathedral in Burgos on August 14, will therefore switch from its traditional Madrid finish. The Vuelta finale will instead be another element in the celebrations of Galicia’s Xacobeo, or Jacobean Holy Year, a religious festival centred on the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrims' pathways leading to Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
A rumoured return to the Puerto de Ancares, an ultra-difficult climb that also featured on the 2014 route in Galicia, has been ruled out because of an ongoing dispute between different local authorities over whether the climb forms part of the region or the neighbouring region of Castille y Leon.
Stage 19 on the final Friday of the Vuelta is instead reported to cross the rugged central region of Galicia, starting in the coastal town of Tapia de Casariego and finishing in Monforte de Lemos, before a possible summit finish in Galicia’s southerly Pontevedra province and the final race against the clock.
Quite what impact the final time trial will have on the Vuelta’s overall outcome remains to be seen. In 2014, on a very short, technical, urban course of just 11.4 kilometres, there were no changes in the top eight overall, as Alberto Contador secured overall victory in Santiago.
In 2001, on the other hand, a final 38 kilometre time trial in Madrid saw Angel Casero overhaul Oscar Sevilla, while in 2002, a similarly long last-day test gave all-rounder Aitor Gonzalez the chance to overtake fellow Spaniard and top climber Roberto Heras.
The full Vuelta a España route is to be revealed on February 11 in the northerly city of Burgos, where it will begin on August 14. The 2021 Vuelta is set to start with another time trial, before taking in at least one tough summit finish in the region, most likely the Picon Blanco that features regularly in the Vuelta a Burgos.
While a subsequent visit to the Basque Country, where the race started in 2020, is thought to be unlikely, the Vuelta is expected to head south for several stages in Andalusia. Current rumours see the race swinging back up through the westerly side of Spain, with another summit finish in Extremadura, before several stages in Asturias, including a summit finish on the well-known Lagos de Covadonga and another on the unprecedented ascent of Gamoniteiru.
The Vuelta is expected to have a total of eight of its trademark summit finishes, as well as a much easier than usual first week. While the mountains of Asturias look set to be crucial to the overall outcome, it could be the final time trial which is the most decisive element of the 2021 route.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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