For the second time in its history, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will participate at the Tour of Spain (2.UWT). The third Grand Tour of the season will start on Friday August 19th in Utrecht (The Netherlands) and head to the finish in Madrid on September 11th.
The World Team experienced a red dream in its first participation last year, thanks to the stage win of Rein Taaramäe on top of the Picón Blanco. The team then defended the red leader’s jersey of Taaramäe (2 days) and later Eiking (7 days) during almost half of the event.
The Netherlands welcome the first three stages of this 77th edition, with a team time trial as opening stage followed by two entirely flat stages. The peloton will then travel to the Basque Country for three hilly stages towards Laguardia, Bilbao and the climb San Miguel de Aguayo, which welcomes the first uphill finish (12.5km at 6,6%).
The first week ends with two other uphill finishes in Asturia: Colláu Fancuaya (10.3 km at 7.8%) on day eight and Les Praeres de Nava (3.8 km at 13%) the next day. After the rest day, the only individual time trial of this edition follows the direction of Alicante on an entirely flat course of 31 kilometer.
The finish in Cabo de Gata at the end of the eleventh stage is the first opportunity for sprinters on Iberian soil, before a finish on top of Peñas Blancas (19.8 km at 6.4%) the next day. The final rest day is preceded by two mountain top finishes in Andalusia, respectively the Sierra de la Pandera and Sierra Nevada (2500 meter) on day fourteen and fifteen.
The final straight towards Madrid contains two mountain top finishes on Monasterio de Tentudía (9.3km at 5.1%) and Alto de Piornal (13.3km at 5.6%) on day seventeen and eighteen. These are followed by a short stage around Talavera de la Reina, with a double passage on Puerto del Piélago (9km at 5.9%), a tough day in the Sierra de Guadarrama leading to the Puerto de Navacerrada (1850 meter) and the closing stage in the Spanish capital.
The selection under the direction of Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon contains three riders who finished in the top ten of a Grand Tour this season. Louis Meintjes, the eight of the Tour de France GC, returns to La Vuelta for an eighth participation (10th in 2015, 12th in 2017). The South-African climber was provisionally in the top ten of last year’s Tour of Spain, until he was forced to abandon following a crash in the penultimate stage.
He will be accompanied by Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo, who finished sixth and eight in the Tour of Italy in May. The Czech stage winner in the latest Giro will line up for his tenth Grand Tour. The Italian climber already finished in the top ten (6th in 2013) and will start the 23rd Grand Tour of his career.
Estonian rider Rein Taaramäe returns to the race in which he became the first rider of the team to wear a leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour thanks to his stage win on Picon Blanco, ten years after his succes in Lagos de Somiedo. Belgian rider Jan Bakelants, who finished seventeenth of the Vuelta twice, is the other Grand Tour stage winner in the selection.
Sprinter Gerben Thijssen and his lead out Boy Van Poppel will participate in the Vuelta for the second time. Thijssen showed himself in 2020 by sprinting to second and fifth place in flat stages. The first stages on home soil are even more special for van Poppel, who will pass only a couple of kilometers from home in the third stage. The sprint train is completed by the Dane Julius Johansen, who will make his Grand Tour debut.