Vuelta a Burgos: Three things to watch in vital Vuelta a España tune-up race

Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, Aleksandr Vlasov among heavyweight startlist revving their engines in Burgos this week.

Photo: Luca Bettini/Pool/AFP

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The five-stage Vuelta a Burgos rolls out Tuesday as a swathe of stage racing talent warms their engines for the 2021 Vuelta a España.

Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, and Aleksandr Vlasov will all be in action in the five-day race through mountainous northern Spain in what will make for their final tune-up ahead of the nation’s grand tour.

Defending champ Remco Evenepoel won’t be racing, but Hugh Carthy, Damiano Caruso, and Fabio Aru are also among the top talent aiming big in Burgos before hoping to go better at the Vuelta. And non-grand tour-bound Simon Yates is diving in to race in Burgos as well, because why not?

Also read: Big names to be confirmed for Vuelta a España

With some riders returning from injury and disappointment and others looking to confirm their billing as the world’s best, there’s a lot to look out for at the Vuelta a Burgos ahead of this month’s Vuelta a España.

Here are three key threads to follow in this week’s race:

Egan Bernal dials in for Spanish dream

VERONA, ITALY - MAY 21: Egan Arley Gomez Bernal of Colombia and team Ineos-Grenadiers, cheers during the 104th Giro d'Italia 2021, Stage 13 a 198 km stage from Ravenna to Verona on May 21, 2021 in Verona, Italy. (Photo by Sara Cavallini/Getty Images)
Bernal is coming back from a long post-Giro layoff ahead of an anticipated Vuelta start. Photo: Sara Cavallini/Getty Images

He’s won the Tour de France and he’s won the Giro d’Italia. And now it’s time for Egan Bernal to win the Vuelta a España.

Some 10 weeks after rolling into Milano with the Giro’s pink jersey on his back, Bernal is using Burgos to rebuild ahead of a start at this month’s Vuelta. Adam Yates and Dani Martínez are set to support Bernal in both races as Ineos Grendiers looks to storm the Spanish summer.

Also read: Egan Bernal ascends Ineos pecking order with Giro triumph

It’s not been plain sailing for the 24-year-old since Bernal bossed his way through Italy. The Colombian contracted COVID-19 shortly after winning his second grand tour, forcing him to delay a return to South America and costing him weeks of valuable training time.

Bernal only bounced back to racing just this weekend at the Clásicá San Sebastián. Although he punched into 16th in the Basque race, his form remains unknown after a day following the moves.

This week’s race in Burgos will give a glimpse at what Bernal has in his legs after such a long layoff. And tantalizingly, it will suggest what he has to show ahead of a possible all-star showdown with Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar at the Vuelta.

“I will participate in La Vuelta,” Bernal said last month. “I would like to win it one day, but for now I don’t know how I’m going to get there. Winning the three grand tours is a good opportunity. I don’t know if I can do it this year, but it’s definitely one of my goals.”

Can the Colombian come out king against the weight of Slovenia’s grand tour greats and complete his grand tour triple? Tune in to Burgos to get an idea.

Mikel Landa looking to test mountain legs

Mikel Landa
Who doesn’t love seeing Landa on the attack? Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Mikel Landa was awesome in the first week of this year’s Giro d’Italia … until it all came to a horrific end.

The Basque rider was caught in a collision on stage 5 of the Giro and came away with a broken collarbone and fractured ribs, just when he had showing signs of being back at his all-offensive best.

Also read: Mikel Landa’s Giro exit opens door for Damiano Caruso

Landa has been away from racing since he hit the Italian tarmac and only returned to the peloton with two quiet showings at this weekend’s San Sebastián and Circuito de Getxo. He will be hoping to squeeze more life out of his legs in Burgos this week, where he will ride alongside Giro star Damiano Caruso.

“I’m a little bit far from my best shape now, so the first races starting with San Sebastián, Getxo, and Burgos, will be quite hard for me,” Landa warned last week. ”I don’t have too much racing speed in my legs, and I think these races will be good for me to improve my shape. I hope to be much better and in good shape for La Vuelta.”

Is Landa ready for his highly-anticipated return to grand tour racing?

Let’s hope so. When he’s on form, Landa’s Pantani-esque attacks in the mountains are a sight to behold, and although some fizzle fast, some kick-start all the chaos.

Look to the mountainous stages 3 and 5 this week – particularly the grizzly Lagunas de Neila HC summit finish Saturday – to see if Landa is ready to uncork some carnage at the Vuelta later this month.

Giro d’Italia’s nearly men return for final face-off

Romain Bardet riding the Tour of the Alps
Romain Bardet came close to a Giro podium only to be undone by a poor final stage TT. Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

This year’s Giro d’Italia all came down to a battle for third after Egan Bernal and Damiano Caruso romped up the road.

Many of the tight-knit pack that lost out to Simon Yates in the race for the Giro’s podium will be at both Burgos and the Vuelta as they eye an end-of-season opportunity for revenge.

Hugh Carthy, Aleksandr Vlasov, and Romain Bardet will be looking to end their seasons on a high in Spain after coming close in Italy.

Carthy finished eighth at the Giro after underwhelming from day one, while Bardet crumbled out of podium range in a disaster final TT. Russian promise Vlasov came oh-so-close to the breakout grand tour podium he’s been threatening before slipping from second to fourth in the Giro’s final week.

Also read: Romain Bardet lights up final mountain stage of Giro

A Spanish summer of Burgos and the Vuelta will see the Giro’s three nearly-men looking to end their seasons with a sizzle.

Bardet is taking his Vuelta bid so seriously that he even ruled himself out of a Toyko Olympic road race that played neatly into his skillset.

“We have big objectives with DSM which await towards the end of the season, and it wasn’t possible to have a peak of form in Tokyo with that program,” Bardet told l’Equipe last month.

Both Bardet and Carthy have not raced since they rolled into Milan, and Burgos will show if they’ve been busy in training. Vlasov has just the Russian nationals and Olympic Games to his name in the past few months and his form is just as much a mystery after winning the Russian TT but disappointing in Tokyo.

Can Bardet, Vlasov, and Carthy go better in the Spanish summer than they did in the Italian spring? This week’s Vuelta a Burgos will set the tone.

And Simon Yates? He’s not racing the Vuelta a España, but he’s going for a blast through Burgos coz, well, what else has he got to do? Rest?

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