A 34km time trial will conclude the 76th Vuelta a España. Multiple minutes can be won or lost on the 34km course, which finishes in Santiago de Compostela. The capital of Galicia hosts the conclusive Vuelta stage for the third time, after staging the culminating time trials in 1993 and 2014. Three-time champions Tony Rominger and Alberto Contador sealed victory on those occasions. Can Primož Roglič confirm his third red jersey this year?
Stage 21 profile
The riders head in a northwesterly direction after leaving the start ramp in Padrón. The road is initially flat, but after 10km it punches uphill. The climb is short at 1.7km, but averages a tricky 7.5%. The riders reach the first time check at kilometre 13.
Much of the next section is downhill, with the riders passing through the village of Bertamiráns 23km into the stage. The road then punches uphill for 1km at 6% on average, where they'll reach the second intermediate at kilometre 25.
Following a plateau section, the road rises via numerous steps to the finish in Santiago de Compostela. The final kilometre in the city is technical, with plenty of corners, a changeable road surface and narrow roads.
The riders will climb more than 600 metres over the time trial. Although the stage winner must be a capable climber, the most important factor is their ability on the time trial bike.
Primož Roglič is looking to seal a third consecutive Vuelta a España title (Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Due to his sizeable lead, Primož Roglič only needs to make it round the course safely to secure a third consecutive red jersey. He looked to have the Tour de France wrapped up in 2020 before losing out in a time trial. His victory isn't guaranteed, but a repeat is highly improbable. His two-minute and thirty second lead over Enric Mas in second place should be more than enough, even if his run is far from perfect. At his best, Roglič can gain more than a minute on all of his GC rivals. He doesn’t need to attack the stage to secure red, but if he does, he’s the favourite to win his fourth stage of the race.
The battle for the podium places looks to be less dramatic than we may have expected, with López dropping out on stage 20 — robbing Movistar of the dream of second and third spot on the podiun. Movistar’s Enric Mas starts within three minutes of Roglič, but after stage 20 Movistar no longer hold second and third overall.
Mas is a much more consistent time trialist than López, who may have had a battle for third had stage 20 panned out differently, so his two minute lead over Jack Haig should be enough to hold onto second overall. That will offer a bittersweet consolation for Movistar.
Mas will be wary of Jack Haig and Adam Yates, who are closest to him in the general classification. But it will be Haig who will be most unsettled as Adam Yates chasing the third place spot on the podium. Haig has historically proven to be a consistent time triallist while Yates has fallen foul of poor results against the clock, so we'd be surprised with an upset to the podium. Nevertheless, with one minute to Haig, and a three minute buffer to Gino Mäder in 5th place, Yates has little to lose and everything to gain with a gutsy time trial.
Egan Bernal, Sepp Kuss and Gino Mäder will battle for the other places in the top ten. Further down, David de la Cruz has moved into the top 10 with Louis Meintjes dropping out. The Spaniard is a strong time trialist, which means he could gain numerous positions on the final day, leapfrogging riders such as Guillaume Martin.
Alex Aranburu was closest to Roglič in the stage one Burgos time trial, but he has since abandoned the race. Ineos Grenadiers’ Dylan van Baarle is another who could have threatened Roglič, but has departed.
Josef Černý is a stage contender (Image credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)
Instead, Deceuninck - Quick Step’s Josef Černý could be Roglič's closest challenger. The Czech time trial champion was fifth in Burgos, ten seconds behind Roglič. That was Černý's best TT result this season, bar his national championships victory. The 28-year-old is competing in his third Grand Tour. In his previous two, he finished sixth on the stage 21 time trial. Can he improve to finish in the top five this year?
Roglič's compatriot Jan Tratnik is another potential challenger. Tratnik defeated Jan Polanc and Tadej Pogačar to win the Slovenian national championships in June. Could he beat another Slovenian in Santiago de Compostela to win his first stage at La Vuelta a España?
Other riders with a chance include Lawson Craddock, Tobias Ludvigsson, Tom Scully and Chad Haga. Haga won the stage 21 time trial at the Giro d’Italia in 2019, though his best WorldTour result since is seventh. The American is Team DSM's best chance of claiming an incredible fourth stage win.
Notable start times
Josef Černý - 17:02:00 CET
Lawson Craddock - 18:15:00 CET
David de la Cruz - 19:27:00 CET
Guillaume Martin - 19:29:00 CET
Sepp Kuss - 19:31:00 CET
Egan Bernal - 19:33:00 CET
Gino Mäder - 19:35:00 CET
Adam Yates - 19:37:00 CET
Jack Haig - 19:39:00 CET
Enric Mas - 19:41:00 CET
Primož Roglič - 19:43:00 CET
While Primož Roglič can ride well within himself, and remain cautious to retain his red jersey, the Slovenian has proven himself to be a showman as well as a once-in-a-generation time triallist. So Roglič is our pick for the final stage of the 2021 Vuelta a España, sealing his GC victory in style.
Cover image: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images