With more than 1,600 metres of climbing on the cards, a mass sprint is not a foregone conclusion. Nonetheless, the fast men start as the key protagonists to win in Villanueva de la Serena. After Jasper Philipsen’s withdrawal from La Vuelta, Fabio Jakobsen looks to be the stage favourite.
Stage 13 profile
Although a sprint stage on paper, stage 13 doesn’t feature an abundance of flat terrain. Much of the stage is rolling, with short hills swiftly followed by downhill sections. This could make things more challenging for the heavy, pure sprinters, particularly after three consecutive days that featured more than 2,000 metres of climbing.
An intermediate sprint occurs with just over 10km left, also giving bonus seconds to the first three riders. As this takes place so close to the finish line, the stage contenders may avoid making a substantial effort here.
The finish in Villanueva de la Serena is fairly technical with numerous corners and roundabouts to navigate late on. The first important corner is a right-hand turn with 3.5km remaining. After numerous roundabouts, a quick left-right sequence occurs with 2.5km and 2km left. The riders sprinters positioned well exiting this corner have a major advantage.
Two more roundabouts lie before the line — one prior to the flamme rouge, and another with 500 metres left. After the final roundabout, the road kinks right before straightening to the finish line. Positioning here is crucial, and the sprinters must heavily rely on their leadout riders.
Fabio Jakobsen is seeking the fifth Vuelta a España stage victory of his career (Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Two riders have dominated the sprint stages: Jasper Philipsen and Fabio Jakobsen. However, Philipsen has now departed the race after suffering from the fever, which makes Jakobsen the heavy favourite. To this point, Florian Sénéchal, Zdeněk Štybar and Bert Van Lerberghe have all played important roles in the Deceuninck - Quick Step leadout train. Jakobsen must trust his team-mates, who haven't let him down so far, if he is to make it a hat trick of victories at the 2021 Vuelta.
For many, Arnaud Démare was the best sprinter in the world last year after he won four stages at the Giro, which added to ten other victories. However, the Frenchman is yet to find his feet at his first Vuelta a España, even though he was a close second to Jakobsen on stage 4. His leadout train has sometimes been dysfunctional, and the loss of the experienced Jacopo Guarnieri will be a disadvantage.
Alberto Dainese has been one of the standout, breakthrough riders at the Vuelta. The Italian has finished in the top five three times, including a runner-up placing in La Manga del Mar Menor. He only has Nico Denz to support him, meaning he’ll have to surf the wheels late on. If he’s positioned well, he’s one to watch closely.
Bora-Hansgrohe have two viable options in the sprint stages: Jordi Meeus and Martin Laas. However, after Meeus sprinted to a strong fourth on stage 8, he looks to be taking team leadership, with Laas acting as the leadout man. Meeus is in his first WorldTour season and is making his Grand Tour debut at La Vuelta. He becomes more of a contender as his Grand Tour experience and confidence grows.
Magnus Cort has already won two stages of the Vuelta this season after resisting the chase of Primož Roglič on stage 6, and sprinting to victory on stage 12. He tried his luck from the breakaway again on stage 11, and was caught with just a few hundred metres left on the wall of Valdepeñas de Jaén. The Dane can win in a multitude of ways, and sprinting is one of his strong points. The undulating nature of the stage may suit him more than the pure sprinters.
Keep an eye on Piet Allegaert, Michael Matthews, Matteo Trentin and Jon Aberasturi, who could be challenging for a place on the podium.
Fabio Jakobsen is our pick to win stage 13 of La Vuelta a España. With Jasper Philipsen at home, Jakobsen is the fastest rider left in the race. Although Arnaud Démare may dispute that, his Vuelta formbook says otherwise.
Cover image: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images