Primoz Roglic finishes as he started | a recap of Stages 16-21 of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana

Primoz Roglic has won the Vuelta again – again again, you might say, because this was his third win on the bounce. The Slovenian won by just 24 seconds in 2020, but this time the winning margin was measured in minutes. He never really seemed too troubled by anyone.

The race recommences

This was one of the flatsprintiest Vueltas I can remember and that was how the final week began with a third stage win for Fabio Jakobsen.

It’s nice to see the Dutch rider again notching major wins after his countryman Dylan Groenewegen pushed him into the barriers during a downhill finish at the 2020 Tour of Poland. The incident saw Jakobsen suffer serious brain trauma, damage to his upper respiratory tract, a broken palate and heavy blood loss and he spent a couple of days in an induced coma. He then underwent countless surgical procedures to repair his face and body.

It is widely assumed that Jakobsen will ride the Tour de France as Deceuninck-Quick Step’s sprinter ahead of Mark Cavendish, despite the Manxman’s tremendous comeback this year.

The race properly recommences

Flat days tend to be inconsequential in terms of the overall race, but Stage 17 brought the Lagos de Covadonga. Great name. Great climb.

It’s 12.5km at 6.9% on paper, but those figures take in about three descents. Basically, it doesn’t always go up, but when it does, it’s steep.

With plenty of time to make up, Egan Bernal attacked before they even got there, striking out in the rain with 60km to go. Just one rider could go with him. It was of course Roglic.

The Slovenian then went it alone when they got to the Lagos de Covadonga.

Outlining his tactics in yet another Great Roglic Finish Line Quote, he revealed: “I just tried to ride up the climb as fast as possible.”

‘As fast as possible’ bought him another 1m35s on the others, while Bernal was caught.

That left just one more mountain stage. While he didn’t win that one, it went pretty well for him too.

Something for Miguel Angel Lopez

I finished my Week 1 recap with a confident prediction that Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez would somehow contrive a way of not finishing third. I am delighted to report that I was correct.

The Movistar rider found himself on the wrong side of a split in the bunch on Stage 20. After chasing for a good long while, he eventually concluded that the best thing to do would be to storm out of the race in a huff. “His head disconnected,” was the assessment of his team manager.

Before that, he won a stage.

Stage 18 was the last big mountain day. Lopez stuck with the other favourites until 4km to go and then darted away, gaining 14 seconds by the finish. Roglic was the best of the rest.

The denouement

At this point, Roglic had 2m30s on Lopez’s team-mate Enric Mas in second place. He added another eight seconds on Stage 20 and then it was time for the time trial.

Having won the time trial on the first day of the race, he somewhat won the one on the final day too. Only two riders finished within a minute of him and neither was of any significance in terms of the overall. Mas, who started two minutes before him, was overtaken and his best-performing rival was Bernal 1m49s back.

The most exciting moment of the day was probably when he made as if to throw his time trial bike into the crowd during his victory celebrations.

Roglic being Roglic, I feel obliged to include a trademark finish line quote. Let’s go with this one. “Sometimes you win by a lot sometimes by a little, but as long as you win that’s what’s matters.”

In summary

Maybe it was the lack of ITV4 coverage, but it didn’t feel like a vintage edition of the race. Roglic needs a sterner rival really. Let’s hope he and Tadej Pogacar can have more of a toe-to-toe in next year’s Tour de France.

The biggest surprise, I’d argue, was Gino Mader’s fifth place. I have never heard of Mader. I swear to God I had never even seen his name until I saw it there in the top 10 after the race had finished.

What’s next?

The World Championships, Paris-Roubaix (postponed from the spring) and the Tour of Lombardy are our remaining 2021 engagements. I’ll try and recap these in October. Sign up for the email to get that.

Utterly mystifyingly, the ‘old’ email mailing list still seems to be working, even though it was supposed to finish in July. Just a reminder to the few remaining laggards that you really do need to switch to the new one, the sign-up for which is linked above.


3 responses to “Primoz Roglic finishes as he started | a recap of Stages 16-21 of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana”

  1. Melanie Griffiths avatar
    Melanie Griffiths

    Thanks for the updates, Alex. Glad it wasn’t just me that was underwhelmed by the Vuelta this year -I did wonder if my general feeling of ‘meh’ was simply due to the absence of Gary Imlach from my evening catch-up. Having said that, the Quest highlights show did improve over the three weeks (not difficult as the first few were complete pants).

    So many questions:

    Will Bernal ever recover the form he had in 2019? I thought after the Giro he was back to (nearly) his best, but I now think his win there might be more a reflection of the quality of the opposition.

    Will Adam Yates ever achieve a Grand Tour podium place?

    Did we learn anything about Tom Pidcock’s future GC credentials?

    How did that dragonfly manage to stay on Kruijswijk’s shoulder during the time trial?


    1. I feel like we learned a lot more about dragonflies than Tom Pidcock.

      I think the overall vibe was a combination of no ITV and the fact that Roglic’s closest challengers were mostly top ten fodder rather than riders with a track record of winning – the likes of Mas, Lopez and Yates. I miss Chris Froome a bit. He always brought (figurative) weight to the Vuelta.

      We also didn’t get that thing where one rider gets ahead and then fades with someone else coming up on the rails. It was all quite samey. Roglic was just the best throughout and falling off seemed the only thing likely to trouble him.

      Bernal, I don’t know. You can’t really question a guy’s form when he wins the Giro, so I presume he didn’t quite reach the same level for the Vuelta.

      I imagine we’ll get Pogacar v Roglic v Bernal, all in top shape, at next year’s Tour de France.

  2. Melanie Griffiths avatar
    Melanie Griffiths

    Thanks Alex – if that happens, next year’s Tour will be mouth-watering (although hopefully not in a Roglic-time-trial-dangling-stream-of-saliva kind of way).

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