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Vuelta a España stars converge for final test at Burgos tour

The five-day race across northern Spain is perfectly positioned on the calendar just weeks ahead of the Vuelta.

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Want to know who’s going to go well at the Vuelta a España later this month?

Watch this week’s five-day Vuelta a Burgos.

Defending champion Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) is back in the saddle for the first time since hitting third at the Giro d’Italia in May. He admits he likely won’t be at his sharpest when the race clicks into gear Tuesday in a spicy stage around Burgos.

“I’m here returning to racing in Burgos, and it’s going to be hard work. It’s been two months without racing, but Burgos is a good race to get back into things with the stages not being too long or hard,” Landa said. “I’ve got very good memories from this race, and I’d like to be competitive. I’ve been struggling with a small injury, so my condition won’t be the best, but it’s going to be a good test and help build my shape.”

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The long-running Spanish stage race sees a fleet of Vuelta favorites testing their legs on the flats and climbs along the edge of Spain’s northern meseta.

Anchored by the emblematic climbing stage to Lagunas de Neila, the five-day race serves up terrain for sprinters and climbers alike. With what should be searing temperatures all week, the action will be hot in more ways than one.

Peloton full of Vuelta-bound favorites

Other top starters include Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley (Bora Hansgrohe), João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Ángel López (Astana Qazaqstan), Esteban Chaves and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Alejandro Valverde and two-time winner Iván Sosa (Movistar), and Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers).

Matthew Riccitello starts his first race as a stagiaire at Israel Premier Tech, alongside Canadian James Piccoli.

Not all of those riders are heading to the Vuelta, but many of them are, and the Burgos race is their last major test before heading to the Netherlands for the grand tour’s start.

One name missing is Egan Bernal, who will not start despite making tremendous progress in his return to training following his horrific high-speed crash into a bus in January. There are some rumors that Bernal could race the Vuelta, but his return to racing remains uncertain.

Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) was a late-hour non-starter after smashing to victory at the Clásica San Sebastián over the weekend, but will race the Vuelta starting August 19 in the Netherlands.

Astana’s López is also back in the bunch after Astana-Qazaqstan determined there was no reason to keep him from racing despite being questioned in a Spanish investigation into a doctor under scrutiny for trafficking of doping products. Last month, López was briefly questioned by police when he returned to Spain, but is expected to race the Vuelta later this month, team officials said.

Five stages capped by Lagunas de Neila

Fabio Aru was second overall in the 2021 edition, and retired a few weeks later. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The 44th edition of the stage centers around the historical city of Burgos and the province bearing its name in northern Spain.

Temperatures are expected to be in the high 90Fs (mid-3oCs) all week, with a slight chance of rain this weekend. Burgos, which hosted the start of the 2021 Vuelta, is the start and finish of the first stage. A first-category climb in the middle of Tuesday’s first stage will spit out the sprinters, and the steep uphill finale to the castle overlooking the city could see a few seconds between the favorites.

The 158km second stage from Vivar del Cid to Villadiego should be one for the sprinters in the bunch. Things get vertical in the 156k third stage Quintana Martín Galíndez to Villarcayo. The HC Pico Blanco with 40km will draw out the GC favorites, before a lumpy run to the finish for a reduced bunch sprint.

The sprinters will have to work for the prize in the 169km fourth stage from Torresandino to Ciudad Romana de Clunia. The rolling profile features no rated climbs but finishes with a sting with 2.1km at 4.9 percent to the line.

The race’s signature climb is back for the fifth and decisive final stage in the 170km stage from Lermas to Lagunas de Neila. At 12km at 6.2 percent, the climb is usually the kingmaker at the Burgos tour.

Burgos trophy doesn’t always guarantee Vuelta success

Alejandro Valverde is the only relatively recent Burgos winner to also win the Vuelta in the same season. (Photo: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Though the five-day race has positioned itself perfectly on the calendar just weeks ahead of the Vuelta, success at the Burgos tour rarely leads to victory at the three-week Vuelta.

In fact, the last winner at Burgos to later go on to win the Vuelta in the same year was Valverde in 2009.

The race heralds a full month of racing in Spain. Last weekend, the top WorldTour stars raced at the Clásica San Sebastián as well as the Vuelta a Castilla y León ahead of Burgos.

Success here certainly confirms who is on form ahead of the Spanish grand tour. And it gives riders like Landa and Hindley a chance to blow out the cobwebs after a long break away from racing.

Some big names have won the race, including Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Alex Zulle, Laurent Jalabert, Marino Lejarreta, Abraham Olano, Tony Rominger, and Pedro Delgado.

No U.S. rider has ever won, with Tom Danielson finishing third on the podium in 2009.

In 2020, the race gained attention for being the first major road race following months of lockdowns and race cancelations in the wake of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last 10 Vuelta a Burgos winners

2021: Mikel Landa

2020: Remco Evenepoel

2019: Iván Sosa

2018: Iván Sosa

2o17: Mikel Landa

2016: Alberto Contador

2015: Rein Taaramäe

2014: Nairo Quintana

2013: Nairo Quintana

2012: Daniel Moreno