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Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Preview

Madrid Challenge 2020
Madrid Challenge podium 2020 with Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) winning, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) second overall and Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) in third. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta has expanded to a four-day race this year, running from September 2-5,with more of a terrain challenge, an uphill time trial and two mid-mountain stage, plus a day for the sprinters.

Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) won her second consecutive title during the 2020 edition of the race ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM). 

Brennauer noted that it will be difficult for her to defend the title this year with the additional stage and more mountainous route that accompanies the move from Madrid to Galicia, with the finish at the capital of Santiago de Compostela.

"It will be very different from the last two editions. It will be really difficult for me to win the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta for the third time because there will be stronger competitors than me in the uphill finishes and the uphill time trial. But I'm going anyway with a very positive mindset. The last stage may suit me and we will have a very strong team. It is possible that I ride in support of my partners," Brennauer said.

Brennauer and Belgium's Jolien D'hoore are the only two riders to have won the race twice with Brennauer winning in 2019 and 2020 and D'hoore winning her back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. Other champions include inaugural winner Shelley Olds and and 2018 winner Ellen van Dijk.

How to watch

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta will offer fans live race coverage and post-race programmes across television broadcast and live streaming platforms.

The race will be broadcast daily on Eurosport Player and Eurosport 1, GCN and on FloBikes.

You can sign up for a subscription to Eurosport Player for £6.99 / $9.26 for a month, £4.99 / $6.61 for a year-long monthly pass, or £39.99 / $52.99 for a 12-month pass.

Coverage via the GCN Race Pass, available on the GCN app, will be available worldwide. Access in the UK will set you back £39.99 for a year. There's also an option to pay for the Race Pass month-by-month, although the year pass is much better value.

Flobikes will be airing the race in Canada. Plans start from $12.50 per month or $150 per year.

In addition, broadcast on RTVE, DKTV2, TV2, Olympic Channel, ESPN, RTVC Senal, Supersport, SBS Australia, Zhibo TV, JSports, and Sky Sport.

Who to watch

Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) is the two-time defending champion having won overall titles in 2019 and 2020. She's a punchy and opportunistic rider, and a time trial specialist, who is certainly in contention to win a third consecutive title, even if there will be strong rivals on the start line.

Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) returned to post-Olympic Games racing at the GP de Plouay where she raced as a support rider. The World Champion will be building her form ahead of her final races before retirement at the end of the season. The mountain time trial will favour her, particularly after her performance in the mountain time trial at the Giro d'Italia Donne, where she was a minute faster than her nearest rival.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) and her teammate Brodie Chapman were forced to abandon the Simac Ladies Tour due to crashes but both return to racing in Spain. The new, more mountainous route, will favour both riders along with Italian Marta Cavalli, who recently finished 26th after an aggressive race at GP de Plouay.

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) will join the team for the four-day race after her teammates raced GP de Plouay, with strong performances from Elise Chabbey and Alena Amialiusik. Niewiadoma's strength on the punchy climbs and in the time trial should play to her favour.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) is fresh off of a win at GP de Plouay showing very strong form post-Oympic Games. She raced all-in for the solo one-day win, and was the strongest on the climbs. The Italian will be a major contender for the overall win in Spain, particularly with a strong team to back her up that includes former winner Ellen van Dijk.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) is back to Women's WorldTour racing after victories at Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa and the Ladies Tour of Norway. A home race for the Movistar team, it will be an important late-season race for Van Vleuten. The mountain time trial will suit her skill set, as will the two mid-mountain stages, and she has a powerful teammate in Leah Thomas to help secure the overall win.

Kristen Faulkner (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) has had strong late-season performances with a stage victory at the Ladies Tour of Norway where she finished third overall, and third place at GP de Plouay. Watch for her to race for the overall title in Spain.

The route

This year's race has expanded to four days of racing, up one stage compared to last year, and is the only Women's WordTour race held in September. The four stages will include two mid-mountain stages, a mountain time trial to the Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort, and sprint finale in Santiago de Compostela.

Stage 1: Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort to A Rúa, 118.7km

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 1 Profie

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 1 Profie (Image credit: Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021)

Stage 1 starts by descending from the Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort and tackling the category 1 Alto da Portela mid-stage before an undulating approach followed by a descent to the finish in A Rúa.

Stage 2: Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort (ITT), 7.3km

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 2 Profile

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 2 Profile (Image credit: Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021)

Stage 2 is potentially a GC decider with a 7.3km mountain time trial to Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort. The event begins at 1,066 metres and climbs to 1,490 metres at the finish line where the winner could very likely take the overall race lead ahead of the final two stages.

Stage 3: Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort to Pereiro de Aguiar, 107.9

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 3 Profile

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 3 Profile (Image credit: Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021)

Stage 3 starts at the Cabeza de Manzaneda Ski Resort and covers 107.9km to Pereiro de Aguiar. The race includes two ascents at the category 3 Alto de Cerdeira (18.7km) and the category 2 Alto de A Lama (64.7km) with another undulating approach to the finish in Pereiro de Aguiar.

Stage 4: As Pontes to Santiago de Compostela, 107.4km

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 4 Profile

Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021 - Stage 4 Profile (Image credit: Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta 2021)

The four-day race closes with 107.4km from As Pontes to Santiago de Compostela. Stage 4 is a race for the sprinters, a flatter day where an anticipated bunch sprint will take place at the historic Plaza del Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela.

Teams

  • Ale’ BTC Ljubljana (ITA)
  • Canyon-SRAM Racing (GER)
  • FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (FRA)
  • Liv Racing (NED)
  • Movistar Team Women (ESP)
  • Team BikeExchange (AUS)
  • Team DSM (GER)
  • Team SD Worx (NED)
  • Trek-Segafredo (USA)
  • Bepink (ITA)
  • Bizkaia – Durango (ESP)
  • CERATIZIT – WNT Pro Cycling Team (GER)
  • Eneicat – RBH Global – Martin Villa (ESP)
  • Team Coop – Hitec Products (NOR)
  • Instafund Racing (CAN)
  • Jumbo-Visma Women Cycling Team (NED)
  • Laboral Kutxa – Fundación Euskadi (ESP)
  • Massi – Tactic Women Team (ESP)
  • Rio Miera – Cantabria Deporte (ESP)
  • Sopela Women’s Team (ESP)
  • Team Farto – BTC (ESP)
  • Team Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank (USA)
  • Valcar – Travel & Service (ITA)
  • Women Cycling Sport (ESP)

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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