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Vuelta a España 2021: Stage 7 preview

Stage 7: Gandía - Balcón de Alicante

Date: August 20, 2021 

Distance: 152km 

Stage timing: 13:30 - 17:30 CEST

Stage type: Mountain

Vuelta a España stage 7 preview video

We’re a week into the Vuelta a España and the first big mountain stage arrives. It takes place on roads that many in the peloton will find extremely familiar from the many training camps that take place in this region, notably out of Calpe.

There are six categorised climbs squeezed into the stage’s 152 kilometres, two first-category tests sandwiching the other four. The climbing starts right from the off, the riders quickly reaching the Puerto de la Llacuna. It averages a modest 6.4 per cent, but that figure conceals the difficulty of its severe middle section. There’s then a bit of a respite before the third-category Alto de Benilloba, which marks the start of tough rollercoaster ride that continues all of the way to finish.

The second-category Puerto de Tudons follows the Benilloba. The intermediate sprint takes place in the valley beyond the Tudons, at Relleu, from where the riders will soon be rising again, this time to the second-cat Puerto El Collao. After dropping to Xixona, the next hurdle is the category 3 Puerto de Tibi. Following the example of their colleagues at the Tour de France, the Vuelta organisers have designated this a bonus point, where the first three riders will gain eight, five and two seconds, respectively.

The descent will take the riders to the foot of the first-category Balcón de Alicante. The official stats list this new finish at being 8.4km long and averaging 6.2 per cent. On paper, not too severe a test. But the climb, which is a close neighbour to the precipitous Xorret de Catí ascent, also has real teeth in its final half, where the road narrows considerably and switches back and forth up the mountainside.

There’s a kilometre-long stretch at 11 per cent, a very brief respite, followed by a pitch at 16 per cent. There’s another short easing, then another ramp that reaches high into the teens just before the finish. In short, it looks like a perfect opportunity for defending champion Primož Roglič to stamp his mark on the race.

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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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