The final day of 2016’s La Vuelta a España is finally here and the red jersey of race leader looks destined to cross the line in Madrid upon the shoulders of Nairo Quintana. Though all the drama in the general classification has been put to bed for another year, there is still plenty of excitement on offer as the race completes its three week adventure with a chance for the sprinters to make their presence felt here. Lasting a brief 104.8km from Las Rozas to Madrid, much of the day will be a leisurely parade for the riders and cameras to enjoy, with a few glasses of champagne making their way around the bunch too. There is not a great deal to analyse of today’s stage, the opening 57.7km building towards the first of eight 5.8km laps which form the finale of Stage 21. The circuits are flat and are primarily based on the same design which has often provided this last day of racing in Madrid, offering an advantage to those riders who have previously ridden La Vuelta’s closing stage. A combination of several u-turns and a couple of 90-degree bends makes this a technical course, but after several laps, it should be plain sailing for teams looking to set their sprinters up for glory in the capital.
Nikias Arndt should already have a win under his belt at this year’s race, but for several reasons, the Giant-Alpecin rider has failed to do so. He is still the fastest man left in contention for a sprint and has form for managing fatigue well as stage races reach their conclusion. The team are capable of delivering him perfectly into position for victory and proved this fact well when only just missing out on Stage 18 to Magnus Cort. In a simple drag race to the line, Nikias Arndt will be the man to beat and should be confident of being manoeuvred neatly into position by his teammates today.
Gianni Meersman was victim of a very poor leadout by Etixx-QuickStep in the final moments of Stage 18 and failed to even contest the outcome seriously. They shall be extremely motivated to remedy this fact and know how well they can execute a sprint given Meersman’s two victories already at the race. Today’s circuits do not suit his attributes that well, especially given the nature of a short stage and his lesser sprint speed, but the power of his team may be enough to swing fortune in his favour to secure a hat trick of wins.
Magnus Cort has performed incredibly well at his debut grand tour and caught the eye with his convincing victor on Stage 18. Today is the only real opportunity for the pure sprinters to take glory, and given how few of those are in attendance, Cort is a real danger to the hopes of everyone with an eye on today. Most interestingly of all however, the fact this is the finale stage should mean Cort is offered a greater level of support in the final kilometres, a factor which will only further push him into contention.
Jempy Drucker put in much quicker sprints than expected at this year’s La Vuelta and will be in the hunt once again today. With the support of BMC, Drucker will be provided enough protection to prevent him expending any unnecessary energy before the last lap. He copes well with the attritional nature of stage races, levelling the playing field to a degree and subsequently giving him a real chance of making the day’s podium at a minimum.
Rudiger Selig has plenty of raw power to mix it up on Stage 21, let alone the strength of his leadout team which features both Scott Thwaites and Michael Schwarzmann; arguably on par with both Etixx-QuickStep and Giant-Alpecin. Bora-Argon 18 should give Selig the nod to carry their hopes on the final day and should perform convincingly on this power based sprint to the line.
Others expected to feature in the day’s final top ten placings are Daniele Bennati, Jonas Van Genechten, Kristian Sbaragli and Kiel Reijnen.
1st Nikias Arndt 2nd Magnus Cort 3rd Rudiger Selig