We’re gearing up for the third and final Grand Tour of the year – the Vuelta a España. Its 76th edition is set to kick off on Saturday in Burgos, the provincial capital of Castile and León in northern Spain. The race is back to its original start date in August and while the Spanish people enjoy their holidays along their sunny coasts, the peloton will take on some of the most demanding terrain the country has to offer. This year’s Vuelta promises to be a thrilling one.
Over recent years, the race has cemented itself in the WorldTour calendar as a race full of passion, with fans that love the sport and terrain that is unforgiving to any rider who is not at the top of his game. The temperatures in the south of the country are usually unbearably hot this time of the year and the flat stages will surely threaten to blow the peloton apart. Not to mention the climbs in the north feature gradients so steep that riders refused to even attempt them until a few years ago.
This year’s race is no exception, as explained by Sport Director Juanma Garate.
“Here at the Vuelta, the stress on the flat stages will come from the echelons and the winds so if we play our cards right, we could even gain some time there. And then we go to the climbs. On the climbs, I don’t worry as much about those as they are a little more straightforward and we have a really strong team for those,” explains Garate. “With Scully, Keukeleire, Craddock and Cort, we have some guys that will be strong on those flatter stages. For the mountains we have a bunch of other guys – Diego Camargo, Simon Carr, and Jonathan Caicedo – that can be around Hugh up until the final climb.”
For the 76th edition of the race, we’re bringing a team which features riders with plenty of Grand Tour experience and a few riders who are still learning the ropes of WorldTour cycling.
The Vuelta has historically served as a testing ground for future Grand Tour riders and is a great time to develop the new talent that’s on the team, like Simon Carr and Diego Camargo.
“These guys, alongside our team veterans, can really learn a lot and we want to see where they can be in a couple of years,” says Garate. “I’m really looking forward to seeing Simon in a few different situations and I will really push him to the line every day to try to see what he can do. With Camargo, we really think that he is a big talent but he has to keep learning and keep improving without any pressure. He has to have a Grand Tour with some goals to start to become a real WorldTour cyclist.”
After last year’s third place overall and fresh off his stage win at the Vuelta a Burgos, Hugh Carthy says he is feeling ready going into the Vuelta and is looking forward to getting going on Saturday.
“I’m feeling good ahead of the Vuelta,” says Hugh. “The Vuelta a Burgos in the end, turned out quite nice and it was a good week of preparation. We didn’t start off as we would have hoped and my form and feeling on the bike wasn’t the best but by the end of the week I turned the corner. I was in the right place by the end so I’m excited for the Vuelta and I’m excited to kick things off here in Burgos.”
On Saturday, Hugh will take the start of his ninth Grand Tour and he is finally starting to feel like he is coming into his own in these three week races.
“I think when you do more Grand Tours you become more accustomed to them, more relaxed. You know what to expect, the highs and the lows and how your body’s going to react,” says Hugh. “But Grand Tours are so long and unpredictable and you’re always embarking on a long journey. It can go very wrong, it can go very well and you don’t know when all of that is going to happen. You just have to focus on day to day things and look after yourself and stay healthy, try and get the best out of yourself over three weeks.”
While this year’s race features many tough and iconic climbs – this years course includes nine summit finishes – Hugh is particularly excited for the newest addition: the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru. The climb resembles the Alto de L’Angliru, a climb that Hugh won on at last year’s race.
“I’m particularly looking forward to stage 18 and to the Gamoniteiru,” he says. “It’s a new climb and I think it could be a future classic. It’s deep into the race and really steep so I think it could produce some fireworks. That’s probably the climb I’m looking forward to the most.”
There alongside Hugh will be a team that will be able to go for stage wins, help him navigate the hardest terrain Spain has to offer, and support him every step of the way. Here is our roster for the 2021 Vuelta a España: