Vuelta a España 2022 stage 11 preview – a bunch sprint?

One of the few flat stages of the race, will today give the fast men another chance at going for victory?

Vuelta a España 2022, stage 11
Distance: 191.2 kilometres
Start location: Alhama de Murcia (ElPozo Alimentacion)
Finish location: Cabo de Gata
Start time: 11.35 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST

The Vuelta a España travels still farther south on stage 11, beginning south-west of the city of Murcia and heading to one of the southernmost tips of the country in a day classified as flat.

The green of the north will be a distant memory as the peloton heads into the arid south of the country. Like much of the Spanish south, the area of Murcia is heavily reliant on its tourist industry, and the presence of the race will bring more attention to an area already popular for its historical buildings and breath-taking natural parks. Alhama de Murcia is no exception, although the riders may find themselves distracted by the delicacies on offer at the day’s unusual starting location, the headquarters of ElPozo – apparently Spain’s most consumed food brand.

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 11 map and profile

Heading south-west from Alhama de Murcia, the route remains inland on undulating terrain for the first 70km or so. The peloton will turn directly south at the town of Lorca, a town studded with breath-taking architecture and monuments, and continue on to Pulpi, and which point the route heads coastwards. The race spends around 60km travelling south along the coast, hugging the striking Costa Calida as it blends into the Costa Almeria, and the race takes in another Spanish region as it moves from Murcia into Almeria.

At Agua Amarga, the route turns inland once more and kicks up the largest climb of the day, although at only a couple of hundred metres, it’s not enough to be categorised. A short sharp descent leads the bunch into Rodaquilar, a small village – part of the Cabo de Gata national park – built around a gold mine within the caldera of an extinct volcano.

From here around 30km remain to the finish line, and they are all relatively flat in nature. With 10km to go, there is an intermediate sprint in Ruescas, which is approached from a downhill run-in and could be very quick as a result. The final 10km are pan flat, and as the race heads back to the coast, the sprinters’ teams can enjoy a hopefully stress-free final, with the last 3.5km running along entirely
straight roads to the headland at Cabo de Gata – a dramatic section of coastline with craggy cliffs, an isolated area of wilderness that represents the largest protected natural area in Andalusia and a designated UNESCO reserve for biodiversity.

Vuelta a España 2022 stage 11 contenders and prediction

Of course, the likely outcome of the day is a bunch sprint. This is the third of six chances available to the sprinters at the race, should everything go according to plan. The first week saw two wins in two days for Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), but the Irishman retired from the race on stage 10 due to a positive Covid-19 test. This leaves stage 11 open for other sprinters in the race. Top of the pile is Belgian champion Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen, who has looked strong on both flat and hilly terrain, coming second three days in a row. Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), Gerben Thijssen (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Dan McClay (Arkea-Samsic) may also fancy their chances.

Prediction: We're betting on Mads Pedersen to take the win today. The Danish dynamite has looked incredibly strong so far this race and today's parcours are well-suited to the Trek-Segafredo rider.