Vuelta a España 2022, stage 21
Distance: 96.7 kilometres
Start location: Las Rozas
Finish location: Madrid, Paisaje de la Luz
Start time: 16.10 BST
Finish time (approx): 18.58 BST
A day more for celebration and reflection than for racing, the final stage of La Vuelta a España returns to the nation’s capital Madrid after a year away in 2021, for a short stage that will almost certainly end in a bunch sprint.
Like the Champs-Elysées stage in the Tour de France, this ride will be partly processional, allowing the overall winner of the race to take in the atmosphere as they head to the finish line the seal the deal one final time. Following two years away, the crowds will line the streets once more to show their appreciation for the riders.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage 21 map and profile
As far as the route is concerned, it’s a typical flat stage, that begins with a tour of Las Rozas, one of Madrid’s most populated suburbs and one that is synonymous with sporting achievement. Situated north-west of the city centre, the national football team is based in the area, along with local teams competing in a variety of different sports. It’s the fifth time a stage has begun in Las Rozas.
The route travels around the area, which features slightly undulating terrain, for 16km before heading south-east on a gradual descent towards the centre of Madrid.
The peloton will cross the finish line for the first time with 52.5km to go, before they begin nine laps of a 5.8km circuit. There’s an intermediate sprint on the second passage of the finish line, offering the chance for a dress rehearsal for the fast men who will hope to contend the win at the end of the stage.
The circuit includes many of the most famous streets in Madrid, including the tree-lined promenade of the Paseo del Prado, one of the cultural hubs of the city, the grand thoroughfare of Calle de Alcalá and arguably the most famous street in Madrid, the Gran Via, crammed with shops, restaurants and nightlife.
The Grand Tour concludes at the Plaza de Cibeles, the iconic heart of the city, with its grandiose marble sculptures and arresting water features. It’s a fitting location to complete the 2022 Grand Tour season.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage 21 contenders and prediction
There wasn’t a huge amount of depth in the Vuelta sprint field to start with, and following the impact of covid-19 on the race, the rate of attrition after days in the mountains, and even riders bowing out to go hunting points in other races, there are even fewer sprinters remaining to fight for the final stage win of the Grand Tour season.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) will hope to make it a fifth stage win in the green jersey, while his greatest competition is likely to come from stage 11 winner Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) and Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Tim Merlier, who will not want to go home empty-handed.
There will be outside hopes for UAE Team Emirates’ Pascal Ackermann, who came close on stage 13, and Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) who worked hard to help Sam Bennett secure two stage wins before he was forced to retire from the race with covid-19.
Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) is another contender for the win today, as is Daniel McLay of Team Arkéa Samsic. Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) isn't a pure sprinter but has been mixing it with the fast men so far this race and will look to do the same on the final stage.
Prediction: We're betting on Kaden Groves of Team BikeExchange-Jayco to take the win today. He looks to have his lead-out dialled and will arrive to the finish line with fresh legs since there are no ascents to challenge him earlier in the stage.