Who Will Win The Vuelta España?

Friday, 22 August 2014

A star-packed field contenders and pretenders for the Vuelta with seven grand tour winners and a long list of rivals. But as any astronomer knows, look up at the stars and you’ll see powerful blue giants also a few white dwarfs.

We watched the Tour de France to see a duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador but were denied, now they’re back and there’s Nairo Quintana to contend with. Time to point the telescope to Jerez for a look at who can win the Vuelta.

Route recap
There are seven summit finishes… one in every three stages is for the climbers. Among these are a mix of steady climbs, the “ski station” variety that are open to many but there are also days where the final climb features double-digit gradients with 10%, 14% and even 24% gradients which tilt the race to the mountain climbers. There are three time trial stages making this the most rouleur friendly tour of the year but that’s only because of a low baseline set in Italy and France, the Vuelta’s 36km and 10km solo TTs won’t allow the GC to change too much. Finally there are time bonuses every day except the TTs so the race suits punchier riders.

There are few races in the run-up to help gauge form, several of the contenders have not raced since the Tour de France. Additionally motivation levels range from desperation to indifference and for some the Vuelta is a training race for the Worlds.

Nairo Quintana is the prime pick. Second in the 2013 Tour after making a couple of mistakes along the way he won the Giro this year with ease, albeit with help from a freeze despite being sick for the first half of the race. The Stelvio neutralisation polemica still annoys him and the Colombian will be looking to take a second grand tour in a season. He’s just won the Vuelta a Burgos and impressively too, taking the mountain stage with a late attack and displaying his trademark forceful style, always turning a bigger gear than the others.

Movistar come with two leaders but it’s hard to see Alejandro Valverde as superior to Quintana. He had a good Tour de France until things went catabolic in the third week. Now if was on the down early in the Tour it could be spun that he’s had more time to recover and rebuild although his performance in the Clasica San Sebastian shows he’s been going hard too. None of this is to knock his chances, just that relative to Quintana he might not have it in the mountains. He can still sprint for the time bonuses though. Movistar are riding their home grand tour and come with a strong team but they might be lacking support in the high mountains but have enough to protect their riders before.

The Vuelta saved Chris Froome‘s career when his performances in 2011 convinced Team Sky to re-sign him and now the story goes that he needs to save his season and even that of his team. But the Sky way is to race day by day rather get subsumed by season-long narratives. We know little of his form, he’s been training in the USA and has not raced. So he’s a pick by reputation and the need for revenge alone, if he’s in form he can match and even beat Quintana on the climbs and will look to the time trials to take time. He’s just crashed in training but the team say he’s fine but it’s a reminder of the “Crash Froome” nickname he cites in his biography. Note the approach is different to the Tour de France, there are no stage recons and Froome’s participation is a late change of plan; all this and the Vuelta is a very different race to the Tour with time bonuses and a field that could be hard to control. It’ll be interesting to see how the whole team rides, Peter Kennaugh is said to be strong while Ben Swift is targetting the Worlds. The squad seemed burned out during the Tour yet Mikel Nieve and Vasil Kirienka are here.

It’s been a year to forget for Joaquim Rodriguez. A crash in the spring classics, a withdrawal from the Giro and when he decided to ride the Tour de France for training he found himself watching the most open edition in years. So here’s someone who really needs something because the Volta a Catalunya was a good win but the former World Number One can do more. The question is whether he can win or is another podium place likely? He’s in his 15th season as a pro not so zippy when it comes to taking time bonuses. Katusha body-double Dani Moreno has just some great results in Burgos. The two ride well together and after a quiet year Moreno seems back to his best, meaning a top-5 all while supporting Rodriguez is possible.

Alberto Contador Vuelta

Alberto Contador‘s condition is unknown but he has form for understating his condition prior to major races, famously coming off the beach to win the Giro, an exaggerated tale perhaps. Now it’s a broken leg although don’t get images of a bone that was snapped like a twig, this appears to have been an incomplete fracture, a partial crack. No fun either but recovery is faster. He says he wants a stage win in the third week but for this he’ll have to be climbing with the best. If he’s climbing with the best he could be a GC contender. We’ll get an early glimpse in the opening stage, is he driving his team on or does he have to miss a turn?

What of Rigoberto Uran? Since his second place in the Giro is Twitter account’s portrayed him sockless on Colombian celebrity circuit and I was ready to think he’d spent little time on the bike or at least been distracted. But he showed up at the Tour de l’Ain with fourth place in the prologue to show some form and remind us of his improvement in time trials. OPQS don’t bring him much support but he’s long ridden this way. A win seems improbable but a podium’s possible although his riding in the mountain stage in the Ain wasn’t storming.

There’s no Chris Horner as he’s just been pulled by his team after cortisone use via a Therapeutic Use Exemption caused his cortisol levels to fall and under MPCC rules he’s got to rest. It’s not been his year but last year wasn’t until August either. Lampre-Merida team mates Przemysław Niemiec and Winner Anacona are in form and with some risk-taking can win a stage and both can make the top-10.

What about Fabio Aru? A revelation for some in the Giro, a confirmation for others, the Sardinian is back for more. He showed he could climb with the best in the Giro but not every day. With the Giro he landed a big new contract and his motivation for the next few weeks is uncertain. His form is too, he was a modest 64th in the Tour de Pologne. Mikel Landa could be Astana’s rider to watch, the Basque climber can take his pick of stages.

Another Giro star who had a quiet time in Poland was Julian Arredondo. The Colombian was great in May and I’d been looking forward to his riding in the Vuelta. But he seemed off the place in Poland. This doesn’t mean he’s out of form, it could be jetlag or he raced right after a hard training block. But his approach to the Giro saw several promising results before, there’s less to go on now.

Another on that transatlantic conveyor belt of exciting Colombians, Orica-Greenedge have GC ambitions with Esteban Chaves. A gifted climber and the route suits him. But his form’s unknown and he’s inexperienced, this is his first grand tour. A stage win seems more likely than a high GC place. Adam Yates is worth watching but surely too young even if he’s proved to be one of the best neo-pros in a long time with his results in California, Turkey and the Dauphiné. One to watch and any results are bonus.

The saying “you’re only as good as your last race” comes to mind for Andrew Talansky. After his win in the Dauphiné he was a tip for the Tour but left the race by the back door after injury live TV images of his suffering on the road to Oyonnax. Every time I hear someone mention him it’s because of this incident. Some say won the Dauphiné thanks to a lucky break but he could only win because he was in a strong position after the stage to the Emosson dam. Put another way he was climbing with the best when it mattered. Another podium outsider he’s also a rider keen to save his season. Team mate Dan Martin could be suited to the route but is he suited to grand tours? He seems very able at winning stages and is prepping for the worlds. Perhaps this relaxed style means he’ll be there when it matters and so ride high on GC? Garmin-Sharp also bring Ryder Hesjedal and if his form’s unknown his reputation for attacking or serving a stronger team mate is known, the team has plenty of options.

Wilco Kelderman also had a great Giro and carried on into the Dauphiné – look closely at the image above and that’s Froome and Contador in the background. He’s back in form with fifth place in the Tour of Utah. He’s a very promising talent and will be one to watch. It’s great to see Robert Gesink back in action after heart surgery and De Condor van Varsseveld always rides better when there’s someone else on the team to soak up the pressure. Belkin also bring Laurens Ten Dam.

Warren Barguil is doing that tricky second album. He had two chart-topping singles last year or rather two stage wins and returns with ambitions for the overall. He is good and promising but this could be a learning experience. An exciting rider he’s often willing to attack and take risks and was in good shape in the Tour of Poland although the time trial went wrong. There’s no best young rider prize in this race but he’d be a good pick.

Jurgen van den Broeck, the peloton’s master of hiding in plain sight returns to racing. As ever he can finish high but rarely wins. He’s the epitome of a diesel engine and the Vuelta’s steep slopes are likely to prove too much.

Cadel Evans is in form. The incident in 2009 when a puncture saw him stranded by the road while Valverde attacked and this lost him the race might still rankle. Recent wins in the US suggest he’s ready to compete but like the Giro the risk is he fades in the final week. We might think he’s got little left to prove but that’s the whole point, he probably wants to prove to everyone retirement isn’t imminent.

If this is a race for climbers then Thibaut Pinot should be thereabouts. But he’s after stage wins and has been relaxing after his Tour de France including a victory lap of post-Tour criteriums. To downplay his chances further he’s just fallen ill and stayed in his hotel room rather than train with his FDJ team mates. He learned valuable lessons about positioning in the Tour but since he’s not aiming for the GC he’s likely to be found at the back, sipping a can of cola del pelotón.

There are more names but not for the win or stage win certainties. Romain Sicard is said to be in great shape, MTN-Qhubeka’s Louis Meintjes and Merhawi Kudus could be exciting to watch. Carlos Betancur could have been a contender but is overweight and finished last in Burgos, you wonder if Ag2r are making him ride the Vuelta for punishment.

Summary
A galaxy of stars but by the end of the first week and two summit finishes we’ll know who’s radiating energy, who is pulsing form and who is vanishing into a blackhole of fatigue and failure. The repetition of summit finishes could entrench a hierarchy based on watts/kilogram so hopefully we’ll be treated to some surprises and risk-taking and this should be more likely given the number of riders keen to salvage something from the next three weeks.

For what it’s worth Nairo Quintana gets the tip because he’s in form while Chris Froome’s state is unknown and the Vuelta is a late addition to his programme.

Nairo Quintana
Chris Froome
Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde
Dani Moreno, Alberto Contador, Rigoberto Uran, Chris Horner, Wilco Kelderman
Cadel Evans, Andrew Talansky, Fabio Aru

Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Is this the most “open” of the 3 week tours we have had for years and years? Place your guesses folks, mine is with Nairo.

Cilmeri August 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Interesting take on contador. I’d dismissed him, but you’ve persuaded me that he’s one to be reckoned with as well.

I’m not convinced it’ll be that open. I think a straight fight between Froome and Quintana is in prospect, so similar to 2013 tour de france, but a closer fight due to Quintana’s additional experience. I think Froome will pip him though.

Nina August 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Nice one. I especially like sockless. My opinion is Contador wouldn’t race, even in the Vuelta, if he privately wouldn’t believe he has a chance to win overall. But apart from that I am with all the others who believe Quintana will win.

LM August 22, 2014 at 1:48 pm

My heart’s with Uran, Rodriguez or Contador; my head says Quintana. But I agree, with his shear force of will, Horner deserves a two ring chance, despite the fact that he won’t be riding.

Girona August 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Horner, what a loser. I mean, ok, you’re down with bronchitis, the flu, what ever…but you just stay away from the drugs. If that means your not going to be in form to challange for top placings, then that’s how it is. Bad luck, yes, but it’s the same for everyone. Cortisone is something you Don’t Take, unless you’re old and ill. But then you are a pacient and not a competing cyclist.

Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm

cortisone is nasty, you dont take that for fun. probably he was really ill.

gabriele August 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm

It’s not that simple.
Cortisone is nasty, but it’s great doping, too: rather underrated because of the shared perspective focusing on blood doping, but we’d better not to forget that hormone doping has been playing a major role in the sport for years, without receiving the same amout of collective stigma. We obviously know about Lance and Floyd and so, but the perception of the problem is quite different… maybe because everyone feels the war against blood doping is being pretty effective, so better not ask about anything else?
(Conconi went on researching about cortisone’s “miraculous effects” on ageing athletes, himself included; a good deal of Fuentes’ doping programs for the “May Festival” were hormones related).

Anyway, back to Horner: your cortisol levels shouldn’t be falling like that just because you’re taking it as a medication, at least not in a case like Horner’s. In fact, the team feels they need to mention “jet lag” as a factor that, combined with the therapy, may justify those levels. I don’t know if this kind of story would resist an expert-panel scrutiny like those we see in BP cases, and we won’t ever know it since we don’t have any kind of Hormonal Passport (it would be utterly complicated, even worse than BP)…
Everything would be ok for the UCI thanks to the TUE, no more questions.
I really don’t like MPCC (for different motives), but their measures about cortisol levels are indeed interesting, to say the least.

hoh August 22, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Isn’t Hormonal Doping out of rouge because they are so easily detectable?

gabriele August 22, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Not at all.

Some of them are virtually undetectable (HGH, despite Sikewitz’s story, can hardly be detected, and just for a few hours window; the same, or worst, goes for IGF). Some of them are easier to detect when they’ve been synthesized, but if not, it will often be nearly impossible; most tests about sexual hormones just check the relative balance between different hormones, so if you play it smart they won’t ever catch you.
Some cortisone related fluctuations can be natural, and, what is more, you can get it covered with some TUE, since cortisone is our age’s panacea.
The lack of interest and/or information about this area always surprised me (or not…): everyone’s obsessed by Fuentes’ blood bags, but from his notes we know he worked a lot with hormones; the same goes with USPS.
Note that the cyclist can know even less what is happening with his body, comparing with blood doping: take a pill, put a patch on, and let’s go.
Even more interesting, the effects on sporting performances that may have come to light during the last twenty-five years or so are way less publicized than those of blood doping (generic statements about muscle metabolism, improving percentage of lean/fat mass, or better recovery). And no one seems to care too much.

It’s better to believe we’ve overcome an horrible and dark past, the infamous EPO era :-D (curiously enough, people refer to “EPO era” including the 2000s and their blood transfusions + testosterone + cortisone + HGH + insulin practices; but saying “EPO era” it seems even easier to feel that everything is under control, we have tests for that! And, yes, EPO is an hormone, too, but it’s normally included in “blood doping” because of its main effect).

STS August 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

For what exactly do you want to blame Horner?

From what we could read he has been ill with a chest infection even going into the Tour de France. Then they tried to cure it with antibiotics. As it did not sufficently help they tried a different antibotic. And another one after that. He also went back to San Diego into the heat after the TdF. Obviously all in order to be able to save his year by showing up as good as possible at the start of the Vuelta. We can consider this to be in the mutual interest of his team and himself.
After Utah he was still affected by this bug so they asked for external help and applying cortisone was recommended. Knowing that they will need a TUE for it they asked for it, got it and applied the drug.
Now he shows up, has done the tests which have become the standard at the beginnin of any GT and would be able and allowed (by the UCI) to start the race. But his own team pulls him because they comply with higher standards than the UCI.

Had they started with cortisone – as Sky did with Froome prior to the Tour de Romandie – much earlier and also in full compliance with the UCI and WADA Horner would probably be cured from this illness and at the start of the Vuelta. But YOU would not know since he had pulled out of the Tour, taken the cortisone and sat out the necessary time span in order to get back to normal cortisol levels.

If you were to know how often these guys and any professional athlete have to take drugs (not for the sake to enhance their performance) but to overcome illness and the consequences of crashes and injuries you would not make such a statement which only shows that you obviously miss the necessary knowledge base.

Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Cortisone does not cure anything, it relieves the symptoms. The whole tale seems very odd. According to Horner he was suffrering from Bronchitis but taking antibiotics. Unless things have changed since my day most bronchitis is viral so antibiotics wouldn’t have served any purpose. Any doctor that prescribed cortisone to cure bronchitis is probably a graduate of Hogwort’s.

Tovarishch August 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Damn – I again.

gabriele August 22, 2014 at 4:55 pm

+ 1
I’m quite… sick… with the bronchitis – antibiotics – cortisone stories. If you have enduring infections on, take care with cortisone. If it’s a virus, antibiotics don’t help (you may use them to prevent further bacterial infection, but they won’t do anything against the virus). If it’s bacterial, and it’s so resistent, having your immunitary system shut down or such may be really dangerous. Both cortisone and competing in a GT will significantly lower your defences.
The pay-by-results contract is really no excuse, because if the situation is so critical, the doctor(s) following him should have stopped him from racing.
That said, let me state that I don’t really blame Horner, that is, the individual rider; nor I think that he’s anything like “a loser”; nor I believe that any kind of medical problem requiring treatment should prevent you from racing (that is quite an oversimplification, which is spreading between cycling fans annoyed by the sensation that many TUEs are really covering something else, just like altitude training and the likes; but we shouldn’t take any absurd attitude just because of those suspects).

Sam August 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Quintana for me. The ITTs are not super-long flat ones where Froome can put down so much more power than Quintana that he can gain 2-3 mins on him. And the Colombian has momentum behind him, which Froome does not. Finally with the Giro under his belt, a Vuelta win would be the cherry on the cake but would not define Quintana’s season – whereas Froome will be desperate to salvage his. And he’s headstrong enough to make a tactical mistake or two at the wrong time, and a cool-headed Quintana could capitalise on that.

Germán Ospina August 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Now with Horner out, looks like there will be 5-6 Colombians as protected riders. Nairo, Rigo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chaves and Winner. Three for GC, three for mountains stages. Like in the Giro, they will help each other out. May make the difference when chasing an escaped Contador, Froome, Purito or even Valverde with Nairo just sitting on Serpa’s wheel, for instance. Many countries start their world team training at the Vuelta :)

Mats August 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Froome gives me an impression of a fragile rider. If he’s not sick, he’ll crash himself out. Let’s see if he manages to stay healthy and upright this time around. I’d put my money on Nairo who is clearly in good form but all in all I’m expecting a good, solid and open Vuelta.

Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 2:11 pm

he looks very fragile, like made of glass.

Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm

My thoughts exactly, he looks so fragile.

The Inner Ring August 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm

It’s funny how he seemed invincible before, lining up win after win in 2013 and was odds-on to win the Tour etc.

Sam August 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Second album syndrome? The familiar scenario of the downward spiral once you lose momentum?

My own feeling is that he was far from 100% going into the Tour.

STB August 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Great write up, this could be the best race of the year.

Quintana looks the favorite to me, Froome maybe. Uran is a bit of a dark horse in this one, and Contador is bluffing when he says he is only after stage wins.

gabriele August 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Contador’s fracture was a tibial plateau fracture, which is rather critical even when we’re speaking of incomplete or fissure fractures; although his case was apparently favourable, full recovery tends to be quite complicated (you’re often left with pain under effort or an unstable articulation).
In the case of Rodriguez, his withdrawal from the Giro was due to… more crashing. The poor Joaquim went on to finish the Montecassino stage after that massive crash, just to discover he had to many fractured bones to proceed to the following stage. Unlucky year till now, it doesn’t help much your training, either.

inconspicuous August 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Indeed, cyclingtips has a new video up with the GCN folks and Contador on a training ride and Contador admits himself that there is still some pain, and it picks up when he goes “full gas”. We’ll see how it affects him during the three weeks. http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/08/interview-with-alberto-contador-ahead-of-the-vuelta-a-espana/ (sorry for competing link!)

Anyway, I have Quintana in first with a battle between Froome, Rodriguez and Contador for 2nd.

And this line ” Since his second place in the Giro is Twitter account’s portrayed him sockless on Colombian celebrity circuit …” along with the accompanying picture made me actually laugh out loud. I too follow Uran on twitter and since the Giro it seems as if Uran is living the life of some international superstar at home in Columbia. Whether it be the pictures of his Audi, him standing outside rope lines with VIPS, or hanging out at resorts, I was beginning to wonder if his penchant for cycling had been outdone by the good life! Good stuff as always, inrng!

Sam August 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Rigo makes me smile (and in a really good way). He has more to his life than just cycling

One Man Gruppeto August 22, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Kudos as always for the photo selection, especially for Uran’s ‘my girlfriend is 15 minutes late’ expression on the front of that magazine.

KB August 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Zubeldia is so stealthy he doesn’t even appear in the preview ;)

The Inner Ring August 22, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I did think of him but he might be tired from the Tour and thought the steep slopes of the Vuelta could be too much for him

Mark August 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm

You won’t see him from start to finish, then you’ll notice he came in 6th, or thereabouts :-)

Larry T. August 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Excellent preview, thank you very much. I’ll be cheering for ol’ Evans and if he can’t win I’d like to see Uran on the top step. I wonder if we’re getting the REAL story on Horner? If you believe what they’re saying it’s hard not to wonder why the guy didn’t take enough time off to actually recover rather than battle whatever it was to the point only cortisone could help. Raced all the races they either didn’t care about or had no chance to win only to fall apart at the last-chance-saloon. I thought the MPCC folks had some claims about not racing people when they are sick? What kind of docs prescribe “race and train your ass off while swallowing multiple rounds of antibiotics for months”?

STS August 22, 2014 at 4:40 pm

“What kind of docs prescribe “race and train your ass off while swallowing multiple rounds of antibiotics for months”?”

Like it or not (I don’t), Larry, but nearly every doc in professional sport does that nowadays. For instance Quintana won the Giro after taking antibiotics for the most part of the race.

And if Horner has (had) a real bug taking time off AND not taking any strong drugs would most probably not have helped him either. If their experience tells them that most of the time they will cure the illness with antibiotics while keeping racing / training then it’s only logical that they’ll go that way. I would be scared of any long-term consequences of that behaviour especially to my heart but this is professional sport. Only laymen think that it has anything to do with leading a healthy lifestyle.

Larry T. August 22, 2014 at 5:00 pm

It’s the combination I’m complaining about. While everyone knows antibiotics are horribly overprescribed, any doc would tell you that REST is a key component to recovery. It’s only speculation but taking a week or a bit more off to get back to 100% and then resuming training would certainly have seemed a better idea, especially in hindsight, even if the result was showing up at La Vuelta a bit short on form. The race is so often won or lost in the third week anyway. So it seems really dumb if the goal was to win La Vuelta, unless this is not the REAL story and Horner’s been held out for other reasons? After seeing the guys shirtless in Paris at LeTour 1988, I knew this sport had little to do with a healthy lifestyle! I think it’s worse now as they look that skinny on TV and in photos.

gabriele August 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Totally agree with what STS says about docs in pro sport, and healthy lifestyle and so.
That said, as an athlete you need to be at least a little healthy to perform, so it makes no sense to destroy an athlete with a dubious course of action, because in the end you won’t get performances, either.
What surprises me more is not just the antibiotics, but the combination with cortisone.

I d’like to add that it would be fair to Larry to quote something more of the context, for example the previous sentence: “I thought the MPCC folks had some claims about not racing people when they are sick?”. Reading both sentences, I guess that Larry knows what is happening with pro sport docs, but he’s just wondering about MPCC stance and the coherence of their team doctors’ decisions.

STS August 22, 2014 at 8:58 pm

I did not want to contradict Larry and I certainly do not consider him a layman. But quite often, also here, we read comments reflecting some very idealistic, read naive thinking about ethics and so on in professional sport. This paradoxon between the reality of a very demanding and by its nature very competitve and elitary profession “sold” as a sport and the way many if not most fans see it mainly as a sport and project their understanding of a noble sport onto it is the source of both, its fascination, maybe even the main reason for its existence on the one hand and many misunderstandings on the other. This is very striking for me with regards to nearly anything health-related which of course also includes the whole doping theme.

gabriele August 23, 2014 at 12:08 am

I totally share this view, but I’d just add that human beings and so many of their activities and feelings aren’t bound to the principle of non-contradiction as logic is. Nobleness and cheating and self-destruction and cult of the body sometime can live side by side, or even in the same person… I’m not justifying any naive vision, on the contrary, I’m just saying that maybe the paradoxon isn’t just due to the need of “selling” the sport, but it’s possibily intrinsic to the sport itself.

Paul Jakma August 22, 2014 at 9:59 pm

I wonder is there an element of quackery in cycle racing, indeed in sport in general? Perhaps with, generation after generation taking cortisone and anti-biotics (cortisone abuse was rife from at least the 80s, by accounts), it’s become part of the lore of the pro teams. Maybe even absorbed by the doctors (some of whom themselves have been in the sport since the 80s, many since the 90s).

An obvious sign of quackery is the tape many riders put on their legs – which is complete junk and without any scientific justification. At best it does nothing, at worst it persuades riders to avoid seeking real help and instead continue on doing damage to themselves. Garmin even employ a chiropractor!

Anonymous August 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I had bronchitis over the winter, ended up not Being able to ride for 3 months, something to do with not being able to breathe. I’m curious / concerned about how these guys seemingly race and train through the illness, and the long term impacts

Elle August 22, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Doesn’t Horner have a pay-by-results contract for this season only? If that’s the case it would explain his otherwise apparently reckless attitude to riding while under the weather.

The Inner Ring August 22, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Yes, his pay is said to be results-orientated. This hasn’t been a profitable year for him.

Anonymous August 23, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Ding ! Ding ! Ding !

There is the winning answer.

It’s interesting how so many come on here and seem to know the real deal and whos’ doping etc. Everyone who has accused CH of doing PED’s in his Vuelta build up are nowhere near him at the the Tdf or in Utah to understand that the guy was and still is recovering from bronchitis.

If he is on a performance based contract, that explains why is racing and not resting. Also, Lampre was willing to take a late invite to Utah, then turn around and fly the entire roster, soigneurs and team staff back to Europe for the Vuelta. Why ? They believed in CH’s ability to win the Vuelta.

Paul H August 22, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Really looking forward to this.

I guess the key to the race is whether Contador and Froome are any where near peak in terms of form and fitness. If they aren’t it’s incredibly difficult to go against Quintana for the overall win. If they are, and I guess Froome is perhaps the more likely to be race ready, then we could be in for quite a battle.

Othersteve August 22, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Great Inrng tease leading up to a great race as usual, with insightful comments from the “blogoton”

Quintana’s race to lose; A spanish speaker will win, too much cross/team partnerships to overcome for the english or germanic anglo stars once the road goes up.

Plenty of spices for the Paella, should be quite an interesting individual stages will have plenty of subplots as well as the GC.
I do like Cadel as he has everything to gain and nothing to gain. and he is cunning and strong.

Shame, about Horner despite the conspiracy theorists. He would add so much to holl climbs

SilverSurfer8 August 22, 2014 at 6:28 pm

It’s a shame about Horner. I was really looking forward to seeing him defend his title. Get well, Chris! Come back next year, win another GT and surprise everyone again!

I rather like Uran’s ‘glamorous life’. And that hair! It’s nice to see someone stand out for a change. Laurent Fignon would approve!

Froome, Quintana and maybe Purrito seem like good picks for the win. I think Contador’s injury will limit him too much, and he’ll have to abandon for his health’s sake. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Quintana fall victim to “Giro Neutralization Revenge”. The peloton tends to ‘even the score’ on stuff like that. So if Froome keeps it upright, I think he wins it. But I don’t think he will. Call it a ‘hiccup’ year, as I think he’s got several GT wins in his future. Bonus seconds favor Puritto when he’s at his best, and he’s been so close!

My dark horse pick is Ryder Hesjedal. With Talansky riding for him and Martin a joker, Garmin have a strong three-headed monster. When Ryder’s in good form, he can climb and TT with the best.

Can’t wait! Allez Vuelta a Espania!

Evan August 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Is MTN’s leader not Pardilla? He had a good burgos.

Dan August 22, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I think it was David Millar who candidly spoke of the Columbians’ reputation for riding (in this order) for 1) themselves 2) their mates 3) their teams. Charges of xenophobia aside, it’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out in the Giro. It’s hard to bet against Quintana and Colombian domination.

Jarred August 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Hope Cadel just goes for stage victories! That would make for some really good racing

mjm August 22, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Agree. I’d also like to see him race more one day racers and transition away from grand tours in his last year(s).

Tricky Dicky August 23, 2014 at 6:57 am

Evans has said he is riding all in for Sammy Sanchez. If a stage opportunity arises, he will take it, but the focus is on getting Sanchez top 5. Of course, that could all change after the first couple of climbing stages. Evans is certainly a pretty luxurious domestique to have by your side.

That said, my main focus is watching how the younger “Anglo” generation progress: Dan Martin, Pete Kennaugh and Adam Yates in particular. With the young French and Colombian stars, we could really be entering a golden era of climbers again now that Watts/kg is not so easily distorted by artifical means. Fingers crossed anyway.

Finn August 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm

“not so zippy when it comes to taking time bonuses”, isnt that Joaquim’s whole sort of thing though, sprint away at the end of climb a gather bonus seconds, like the 2012 giro

The Inner Ring August 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Less so, in times past he was unbeatable but maybe it’s age or his focus on grand tours, he seems less sharp here. Still quick though as we saw in the Volta Catalonia etc.

STS August 22, 2014 at 9:07 pm

But it’s time for Purito to finally win a GT. He’s so likeable, humble and really animates racing. I would not like to see him end his career without having won a GT and without wearing the rainbow jersey.
That’s why he’s my favorite. Will face a tough battle with Quintana, though. And Froome if he makes it through unscathed. But as many others I consider this somewhat unlikely. He did not travel to the U.S. in order to improve his bike riding capabilities in the rain, did he?

Paddy Dunne August 22, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Nairo to win. Would like to see Purito on the podium with Dan Martin, D-Mart can benefit from time bonuses like the old fellas. Hopefully RU will be dieseling his way to a top 5

george August 23, 2014 at 2:56 am

I think this mostly depends on Froome’s form. If he shows up in all his 2013 Tour de France glory then I don’t think Nairo can beat him, especially with the 45 km of ITTs. However, if, as is likely, he is not at that form due to his injury and lack of preparation, we should have a great battle, especially if he rides himself into form in the third week. Or maybe it might finally be Rodriguez’s year? Should be great, no matter what.

TourDeUtah August 23, 2014 at 4:11 am

Now that Horner is out, I will be rooting for JRod. Lots of short and steep finishes early in the race, which suits him. He can gain time and bonuses here and if he does a decent ITT, this may be his elusive GT.

Ben August 23, 2014 at 5:53 am

I’m sad Horner won’t be racing. I think he would have had a hard time against the competition but I always like to see the previous champ race. Regarding bronchitis: it’s not an infection in itself. It can result from an infection or other factors like pollution. It can also persist after the infection is gone. Cortisone is a legitimate treatment and not uncommon. His story adds up.

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