Vuelta a España 2021: Stage 15 preview

Stage 15: Navalmoral de la Mata - El Barraco

Date: August 29, 2021 

Distance: 197.5km 

Stage timing: 11:35 - 17:30 CEST

Stage type: Mountain

Vuelta a España stage 15 preview video

This is a very long day in the mountains for the Vuelta, running from the western end of the Sierra de Gredos to this massif’s most easterly point at El Barraco, a town long associated with 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, who first raced for the local club which was run and is now named after his father Víctor.

The opening third of the stage is straightforward as it crosses the northern flatlands of Extremadura. The profile starts to change after it enters the province of Castilla-La Mancha, passing the town of Candeleda. Ahead lies the first of two category 1 climbs, the Alto de la Centenera, which climbs for 15.5km at 5.5 per cent. From the pass, the road drops to San Esteban del Valle and immediately starts up the second-category Puerto de Pedro Bernardo, 9km long but significantly easier at an average of just 4.2 per cent.

The linking of the passes continues, the descent from the Pedro Bernardo leading quickly into the Puerto de Mijares, the stage’s high point at 1,570 metres. Like the previous two ascents, the Mijares isn’t especially steep, averaging 5.4 per cent, but it’s a long haul, extending to 20.4km. The descent away from the Mijares is lengthy too, the road dropping for 25km to reach Navaluenga, at the foot of the final test.

The third-category Puerto San Juan de Nava, is the shortest (8.6km) and least acute climb of the day at 3.8 per cent, but by its summit the riders will have clocked up well in excess of 50 kilometres of ascents in what is likely to be hot conditions. It’s also a bonus point, so there may also be quite a contest for those bonus seconds if the GC race is tight. The finish in El Barraco is just half a dozen downhill kilometres away from the top of the San Juan de Nava, so one of the riders who scoops those time bonuses might ride off with the day’s main prize too.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).

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