With the exception of time-trials, stage 11 is the shortest stage at the 2021 Vuelta a España. We can expect explosive racing throughout, with over 2,600 metres of climbing and hardly a kilometre of flat terrain in sight.
Stage 11 profile
The riders depart from Antequera, which made its Vuelta a España debut in 2013. The stage kicked-off stage 9, which was won by Daniel Moreno in Valdepeñas de Jaén, where stage 11 will conclude this year. Although the stage starts and ends in the same locations, this year, the stage is 30km shorter than in 2013. At just 133km, this will be a fiery affair.
Undulating terrain defines the initial kilometres. Many riders will be eager to join the breakaway, so the battle to join the group will be manic. Although there are no categorised climbs in the first 120km, this phase of the race is filled with short hills and some ascents which are over 5km in length.
The Puerto de Locubin begins with just under 17km remaining — the second category climb is 8.8km in length and averages 5%. Bonus seconds are handed to the first three riders to crest the climb, which could encourage attacks from GC riders.
The riders then descend for around 5km, before the road begins to rise on the way into Valdepeñas de Jaén. The final kilometre features absurd percentages — the gradient is in excess of 20% in places. Igor Antón, Joaquim Rodríguez and the aforementioned Daniel Moreno have all won on the wall of Valdepeñas de Jaén previously, which illustrates the qualities the stage winner must possess.
Andreas Kron (Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Primož Roglič attacked in the red jersey on stage 10, and although he gapped his GC rivals on the Puerto de Almáchar, he crashed on the descent. He escaped serious injury, though this may have knocked his confidence. Alternatively, Roglič might be even more intent on laying down a marker in front of his GC rivals.
Either way, it is no longer Jumbo-Visma's duty to control the race. That job lies with Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert after Odd Christian Eiking moved into the red jersey. Eiking is the first Norwegian to hold the red jersey since Thor Hushovd in 2006. He leads Guillaume Martin by 58-seconds, whilst Roglič is third, over two minutes behind. Intermarché will surely surround Eiking in a bid to retain the red jersey.
Without a GC contender, Deceuninck-Quick Step are free to do what they do best: stage hunting. Fabio Jakobsen has already recorded two stage victories, which relinquishes the pressure from his team-mates. Andrea Bagioli was a close third on stage 6, which also finished on a steep climb. The 22-year-old is constantly proving that he is one of the best young puncheurs in the world. Mauri Vansevenant is another good option for Deceuninck. Both riders joined the stage 10 breakaway — Vansevenant finished second, whilst Bagioli was 18th.
Lotto Soudal are another team free from general classification concerns. Leading their stage hunting squad is Andreas Kron. Although the Dane is competing in his first Grand Tour, he has great pedigree with two victories at WorldTour level already. The 23-year-old reconned the stage in July as per his strava, so he may have this one earmarked. Aside from Kron, Harm Vanhoucke and Maxim Van Gils are good options for Lotto Soudal.
Astana-Premier Tech will lose GC leader Alex Vlasov to Bora-Hansgrohe from 2022. However, the Russian has fallen outside the top ten after he finished 15th on the Alto de Velefique, so his team-mates must be given more freedom to go stage hunting. The steep finale suits Omar Fraile, Alex Aranburu, Ion Izagirre and Gorka Izagirre.
Team DSM won stage 7 from the breakaway after stuffing the group with five riders. Michael Storer was the strongest that day, defeating Carlos Verona and Pavel Sivakov on the Balcón de Alicante. Storer then demonstrated it wasn't a one-off, winning stage 10 in Rincón de la Victoria. He's a contender again, though the punchy finish may better suit Romain Bardet.
Max Schachmann was one of the unfortunate riders to crash on stage 2, and he has struggled to find his best legs since. When in top form, the German champion is a great puncheur — he has finished on the podium at the Amstel Gold Race, Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Other riders to keep an eye on from the breakaway include Tom Pidcock, Wout Poels, Rudy Molard, Tobias Bayer and Clément Champoussin.
We are backing the talented Andreas Kron to win stage 11 of the Vuelta a España. Unlike many other contenders, Kron avoided the stage 10 breakaway. Instead, he preserved his resources for another day, finishing 25 minutes back. Perhaps he had stage 11 in mind?
Cover image: Charly López / ASO