8 Aug 2021

Mikel Landa wins the Vuelta a Burgos

While Team Bahrain Victorious missed out on a stage win at the Vuelta a Burgos, Mikel Landa managed to win the overall classification thanks to strong performances in the two mountain stages. Mark Padun finished this stage race that is seen as an important test for the Vuelta a España in 3rd place, Santiago Buitrago got 2nd in the young riders’ classification and the team handsomely won the team classification.

The riders were treated to a route with quite some variety at the Vuelta a Burgos: Apart from two flat stages for sprinters, the initial stage featured a tough finale after some hilly terrain and two stages were leading through mountainous terrain. Not having selected a real sprinter for this race, Team Bahrain Victorious focussed on protecting its two co-captains Mikel Landa and Mark Padun throughout the flat stages to avoid any time loss. With Damiano Caruso, Santiago Buitrago und Gino Mäder, three strong riders were ready to assist on the climbs and Yukiya Arashiro and Stevie Williams completed the selection in Red and Black. The biggest question mark before the race was the form of Mikel Landa: After a crash had forced him out of the Giro d’Italia early on the Basque climber had only returned to competition one week prior to the Vuelta a Burgos after a break of two and a half months.

At the end of the first stage, the race led up some steep ramps to el Castillo. Finishing in 9th place, Mikel Landa already showed that his form was not an issue. Young Colombian Santiago Buitrago rode even more actively and crossed the finish line in 4th place. Throughout the second stage, Team Bahrain Victorious managed to keep its co-captains out of trouble just as they had planned. In the finale of the third stage, the riders had to climb the Picon Blanco as the hardest climb of this year’s race. But from the summit of this pass another 18 kilometres had to be ridden to the finish, mostly leading downhill. Both Mikel Landa and Mark Padun managed to climb with the best almost all the way to the top. On the last couple of ramps, three riders attackers and Romain Bardet stayed away all the way to the finish thanks to a courageous descent, winning the stage solo and taking the overall lead. Mikel Landa finished in 3rd in the first group of chasers and moved up to 2nd in the overall standings, 45 seconds behind Bardet.

As expected, the fourth stage ended in a bunch sprint and caused hardly any changes in the overall standings - even if some riders lost some time due to crashes. Thus the plan for the conclusive stage was clear: Team Bahrain Victorious had to find a way to tire Romain Bardet and put him over his limits. At first, however, six early attackers took charge of things while the riders in red and black took their share of work in the peloton to keep the breakaway within reach and get back to it in the finale. As soon as the ramps up to Lagunas de Neila started, the team set a fast pace with a proper mountain train consisting of Gino Mäder, Damiano Caruso, Santiago Buitrago and Mark Padun, allowing Mikel Landa to take shelter and check how his rivals were doing. When Mark Padun attacked with 2.6 kilometres to go, Romain Bardet had already been dropped by the group of overall contenders. From there the Frenchman lost more and more ground and the last riders from the breakaway were brought back. A stage win seemed within reach for Padun.

But it was not to happen as a handful of riders countered the Ukrainian's move. On the last two kilometres each rider was on his own, riding his own race and struggling with the gradients. Mark Padun was caught and rode in support of Mikel Landa from there while Santiago Buitrago tried to get into the fight for the stage win as well. Further back Romain Bardet lost more and more time. When Hugh Carthy accelerated nobody could match the pace of the British rider. In his wake, Mikel Landa crossed the finish line 16 seconds adrift in 6th place, which was enough to take the overall lead at the very last moment. Thus Landa was honoured as the winner of the Vuelta a Burgos, and that's not all yet: Mark Padun moved up to 3rd on the last day, and Team Bahrain Victorious won the team classification by a large margin. The only setback was seeing Santiago Buitrago lose the young riders' classification and the white jersey by 11 seconds on the last day. Still, this test for the Vuelta a España can be considered a full-on success.  

1. Mikel Landa, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 18:30.00 hours
2. Fabio Aru, ITA, + 0.36

1. TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, BHR, in 55:31.44 hours
2. Astana-Premier Tech, KAZ, + 7.40
3. Movistar Team, ESP, + 8.53

1. Einer Rubio, COL, in 18:30.58 hours
2. Santiago Buitrago, COL/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.11
3. Andrés Ardila, COL, + 1.44