VUELTA’21: Top Men for the King of the Mountains

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Vuelta KOM Preview: The 2021 Vuelta a España starts on Saturday, and as the Spanish Grand Tour is known for its anti-gravity, the King of the Mountains classification is very important. Who might we see in the Vuelta polkadot jersey?

# You can see Ed Hood’s full ‘PEZ 2021 Vuelta a España Preview’ HERE. #

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Edoardo Molinar
Edoardo Molinar – The first Vuelta a España Rey de las Montañas

Vuelta KOM History
In the first edition of the Vuelta a España, in 1935, the mountain prize was awarded to Italian Edoardo Molinar. Molinar won the stage to Zamora and was second in Bilbao and San Sebastián. He eventually finished fifth overall, less than half an hour behind the overall winner, Gustaaf Deloor from Belgium. Since then, three Italians have followed in his footsteps: Giuseppe Buratti and Nino Defilippis in the 1950s and Davide Villella, now racing for Movistar, in 2017. The vast majority of mountain goats were born in Spain. Especially from the early years until well into the 1980s, it was Spaniards who finished with the climbers classification, with the occasional ‘foreigner’ upsetting the orange cart. José Luis Laguía is the record holder with five victories. The former rider who raced for Reynolds, won three times in a row in 1981, 1982 and 1983, and then also in 1985 and 1986. His compatriot José Mariá Chava Jiménez and Frenchman David Moncoutié follow with four victories in the KOM competition.

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Chava – Talented yet erratic

The story of Moncoutié is special. The French rider thought of quitting in 2009, but still wanted to continue to take mountain’s jersey in the Vuelta for the third time in 2010. In the end, he stretched his retirement until 2012 and managed to win twice in both 2010 and 2011. Out of the current pro peloton, only Omar Fraile is a multiple winner of the mountains classification in the Vuelta. He can try to add to his victories of 2015 and 2016 this year for the third time.

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Zoetemelk – Vuelta KOM in ’71 and overall in ’79

Joop Zoetemelk won the mountains classification in 1971, the only Dutchman ever to do so. That year he also won the stage to Ávila and finished sixth in the general classification. Eight years later, Zoetemelk returned to the Vuelta and became the overall winner. Thomas De Gendt became the first Belgian winner of the mountain jersey three years ago, he collected 95 points, beating Bauke Mollema (83 points) and Luis Ángel Maté (64).

The Last Ten KOMs:
2020: Guillaume Martin
2019: Geoffrey Bouchard
2018: Thomas De Gendt
2017: Davide Villella
2016: Omar Fraile
2015: Omar Fraile
2014: Luis León Sanchez
2013: Nicolas Edet
2012: Simon Clarke
2011: David Moncoutié.

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Guillaume Martin in 2020

Guillaume Martin won the mountains classification in the Vuelta last year. In the shortened three-week tour, which had only 18 stages due to the corona pandemic, the Cofidis French climber took 99 points, 65 more points than Tim Wellens in second place. Sepp Kuss took the mountain jersey on the opening day, but his lead was short-lived. Kuss was level with Richard Carapaz after the second day, but because the Ecuadorian was higher in the general classification, he became the new leader. Carapaz wore the jersey for three days, then Tim Wellens took the jersey back. The Belgian collected enough points on the 5th stage to take the lead. Martin had meanwhile also scored his first points and continued to score in the 6th and 7th stages, as a result, the French climber overtook Wellens. He out-climbed the opposition by finishing first on the Alto de la Cobertoria, the Puerto de San Lorenzo, the Alto de La Mozqueta and the Alto del Cordal – for a total of 40 points. In the final week he stretched his total to nearly hundred points.

2020 Final KOM Classification:
1. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) – 99 points
2. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) – 34 points
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) – 30 points
4. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) – 29 points
5. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) – 27 points.

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Mas, Roglič and Martin are all possible climber’s jersey wearers

The Top Favourites
2007 was the last time the Vuelta a España overall winner was also the final winner of the mountains classification. Denis Menchov won a stage that year and wore the leader’s jersey for 14 days before the finish. He also won the mountains classification and the ‘Clasificación Combinada’, which no longer exists. Since the victory of the Rabobank Russian, it has always been attackers with good climbing legs who took the mountains classification. This year will probably be no different. The KOM classification in the Vuelta is always difficult to predict as there are many riders who could seriously go for the climber’s prise. Also, good climbers are more likely to go for the general overall. Some riders are more likely to bet on stage success and see the mountain points along the way mainly as a nice bonus. Big teams, like Jumbo-Visma, INEOS Grenadiers and Movistar, will not be interested in the mountains classification as they have bigger sardines to fry.

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Geoffrey Bouchard has a good KOM record – Here in Giro blue

Geoffrey Bouchard has ridden three Grand Tours and won the mountains classification twice. The AG2R Citroën rider started his first Grand Tour in 2019 and conquered the mountain’s jersey in the Vuelta. This season it happened again. At the end of the first week of the Giro, he took over the KOM jersey from Gino Mäder and never gave it up. So Bouchard knows what it takes to win the jersey and he doesn’t have to work for a leader.

Gran Sasso d’Italia - Italië - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Johan Esteban Chaves (COL - Mitchelton - Scott) pictured during the 101st Giro d’Italia 2018 - stage 9 from Pesco Sannita to Gran Sasso d’Italia (225 KM) - photo DB/LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018
Chaves in the Giro KOM jersey

After an unfortunate Tour de France, Lucas Hamilton is the GC leader at BikeExchange, so his teammate Esteban Chaves should get the freedom to go for the climbs. The Colombian can score high for the mountains classification. In a good break on a mountain stage, Chaves is normally always one of the strongest riders and so the mountain jersey could fall onto his shoulders.

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Poels – Tour KOM, second behind Pogačar

Wout Poels was in the battle for the polka dot jersey for a long time in the last Tour de France, but in the end he was 19 points short of the win. Because overall winner, Tadej Pogačar, already had the yellow jersey on his shoulders, Poels as the second placed in the mountains classification was wearing the red dots on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Mikel Landa is indeed the leader at Bahrain Victorious, but the team says it wants to race offensively, this also offers opportunities for Poels.

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Padun – KOM or worker?

The fact that Bahrain Victorious wants to race offensively also creates opportunities for Mark Padun to go for the mountain jersey. The Ukrainian put on a dazzling performance in the Critérium du Dauphiné with two stage wins in a row in La Plagne and Les Gets, and a win in the mountains classification. Padun appeared to have lost little of his form last week in the Vuelta a Burgos, as he rode to 3rd place in the final overall.

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Martin – 2020 Vuelta KOM

Guillaume Martin won the mountains classification last year by a fair length and should not be missing from the list of favourites. After his 8th place in the Tour de France, he will also be looking at the GC, but the mountain points will also come his way. The podium in Spain is important for Cofidis, who is also one of the main sponsors of the Vuelta.

Felix Großschartner
Großschartner – Another rider who could go for GC or KOM

BORA-hansgrohe will be looking to Felix Großschartner. Ninth overall in the 2020 Vuelta, but he might want to try to stay with the classification riders, or he could chase stage wins and then the mountain jersey could be an option. The Austrian’s shape is good as he proved last month with his 4th place in the Settimana Ciclistica Italiana.

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Bagioli can climb

Deceuninck – Quick-Step comes to the Vuelta start line without an obvious leader, which offers opportunities for Andrea Bagioli, James Knox and Mauri Vansevenant who can all perform in the mountain stages. Bagioli in particular has a lot of punch in the legs and climbs well. He won the Drome Classic early in the season and was 4th and best young rider in the Tour de l’Ain.

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Bardet – Overall or KOM?

After nine seasons, Romain Bardet left AG2R La Mondiale for a new challenge with DSM. With them he was 7th in the Giro this season and last week he impressed in the Vuelta a Burgos. Despite a crash on the descent of the Picón Blanco, he managed to win the stage to Espinosa de los Monteros. If Bardet wants to race offensively in the Vuelta, the mountain jersey is an option.

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Roglič and Carapaz will be going for the red jersey, but the KOM could fall in their lap

Then there is always the chance that a GC rider could take the mountain jersey. If we look at the leaders, two-time winner of the Vuelta a España, Primož Roglič, and Olympic champion Richard Carapaz stand out. The Ecuadorian finished 3rd in the battle for the mountain jersey last year, behind Guillaume Martin and Tim Wellens.

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# Thanks to WeilerFlits for the Vuelta KOM statistics. #

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