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t-72

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I ended up watching the broadcast 30 minutes delayed  on the final time trial, so I never dared to venture into the chatroom for fear of spoilers  :o

The stage 21 was a nice and worthy finale for the 3 X 3 weeks racing of 2021, even if it never got really intense unless you were secretly cheering for #ef EF's King Cort to take yet another stage win instead of Roglic.  Everything was a little bit too settled after stage 20 to get the nail-bitin going. The exception probably being the little shootout for third place on the podium, between the challenger, #ineos Adam Yates and #bahrain Jack Haig. Yates really challenged all he could, but just as he passed the first intermediate time and rounded the crest of the "big" climb in the first part of the stage it was quite evident from his body language and his pace that, yeah, that was all he could. From immediately after that hilltop Haig started closing in the gap, even if he didn't need to.

#red #jumbo Roglic tried to make it a little interesting by heading up a ramp off the main road that the rest of the participants had travelled, but he stopped in time when he noticed the white tape that was put across it....that was about it, the olympic champion and triple Vuelta champion of course had the capacity to go into the cozy neighborhood 200 m on the other side of that white tape, get a cup of coffe at the local cage, finish the stage and win the Vuelta. I feel like there never was much doubt that eventually, he could do that. That was, in my humble opinion, what was lacking in this year's Vuelta: a close competitor of equal capacity to challenge Mr Redlik #red #red #red for the win.

We got quite a handful of really nice stages, tapas cycling, as some like to call it.  Personally, it was great fun following the "red rebel" #intermarche Odd Christian Eiking holding on to the #red for a week after being somewhat lucky about which breakaway he got into. It was a pity the team crashed and lost critical time for the top 10 GC finish that they wanted (Meintjes DNF, Eiking with a sore hip and ending in 11th on the GC. However, I have spoken to all the snowballs in hell and none of them would have thought that Intermarche would spend 9 days in the red (Taramäa + Eiking) in the Vuelta. When they got the chance (ok, 2nd time, then!) they grabbed it with both hands, and it was a delightful surprise to see how long they could hold on. Eiking has earlier said that he doesn't consider himself good for long climbs, so the 2nd Sunday stage to El Barraco, up many big mountains, was a super long stretch for him, and for the team. When near the top of the final climb #intermarche started  to increase the pace, it was so many miles up and beyond expectations for how that team should ride in my eyes. The experience Meintjes, Taramäae and Jan Hirt brought to the team now was plain to see: the team is good enough for a better captain, even if both Eiking and the team won their Vuelta by a large margin.

Many riders won more than one stage in this Vuelta, and both #green #quickstep Fabio Jakobsen, the comeback kid here, and #ef Magnus Cort certainly won their Vueltas. Indeed, when you see the variability of the strong performances put in by Cort this year, it could be argued that getting rid of the old combination jersey (aka the Valverde jersey) in favor of a standard young rider jersey (which most days was on the shoulders of a guy who won the Tour de France, in what feels like ages ago) was a bit of a failure. This older Cort now rides more like a young Sagan or maybe - a current day comparison - like a Wout van Aert: he is a true allrounder. Wonder if there may be a bit of gold or at least a podium at the end of the rainbow week for him?

Team #dsm also deserves honorable mention, not just because they supplied the polka-blues-jersey[1] with a deserving owner at the end. Nor the 3 stage wins that they mopped up at the end, but mostly because of the way they did it. Racing more actively than any other team, they were almost always in the right attack group and managed to make it pay. They are definetly more fun to watch when they don't have a designated GC captain.





To zoom out a little at the end here:
#pink Egan BErnal
#yellow Tadej Pogacar
#red Primoz Roglic

There aren't half as many surprise winners on this list as there were last year, even if two of them are the same.  ;)
Judging by time gaps, Pogacar and Roglic were  dominant winners with gaps around 5 minutes,  The Giro was the more closely fought battle, except I cannot really remember #bahrain Damiano Caruso as a threat to Egan Bernal's win.

So, what do you want more of and what would you change for next year?
I'll start...

- more hilly/media montagna stages to decide the GC (Vuelta win!)
- more sterrato or cobbles to break up the time trial or climbing decides everything duopoly (Giro Win!)
- bring back: the Vuelta combination jersey... keep it special.
- more teams that challenge actively for stage wins .... and can win..   (#dsm victory)
- more long hilly/undulating time trials on the weekends, it brings out the families and that is good for the future (Vuelta win!)
- more #unox on the startline ( :D )

Would you change something about the grand tours for next year?

 

 



 



 1. polka-blues is the rare case of a music style invented based on a t-shirt design in a bike race, but y'all knew that, right?
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  • Drummer Boy

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