Vuelta a España Preview

Friday, 18 August 2017

As Nairo Quintana enjoys some deserved rest and recovery the 2017 Vuelta a Espana podium is open to many with a very strong start list assembling in Nimes for the annual race of surprises and contrats where many line up hoping to win yet few have been on stage recons, where everyone says the Gir-Tour double is impossible but the Tour-Vuelta approach is a well-beaten path. Here’s a brief look at the course and run through of the overall contenders.

Route summary: the usual Vuelta course with regular uphill efforts, depending on your definition the term there are eight “summit finishes” and there’s more with some stages descending off a mountain to the finish and the climbs build during the race going from steady ascents into Andorra before the likes of the Sierra de la Pandera in the final week and the Angliru on the penultimate day. The 40km time trial to Logroño on Stage 16 is hardly going to balance the repeat tests of climbing ability but it is still significant, just as the time trials proved crucial to the Tour de France.

Chris Froome Peña Cabarga 2016

It’s hard to see beyond Chris Froome. He’s a regular in this race and has been targeting it for some time, albeit as a secondary plan after winning the Tour. But this is race that made him, that saved his career even and he seems fascinated and perhaps indebted to it and a win would significantly expand his palmarès. Yet if nobody thinks the Giro-Tour double is possible, how is the Tour-Vuelta combo achievable? The answer is found in the practice rather than theory, see last year’s contest where the Briton could have won last year were it not for a tactical blunder and an uncharacteristically weak team around him on the stage to Formigal. The other question is his form, he’s won the Tour de France and done a few criteriums as well as a training camp in the French Alps but if this evokes doubt perhaps it’s more reassuring than last year’s attempt to squeeze in the Rio Olympics too. Sky bring a strong team with Wout Poels capable of a high overall place too, arguably the race made him too when he climbed with Froome, Wiggins and Menchov in the 2011 race. Sky also have the likes of Diego Rosa and Mikel Nieve as mountain helpers. Better still for Froome is the Logroño time trial, a 40km insurance policy to claim back time against those who would attack him in the mountains.

Vincenzo Nibali returns to the Vuelta after his 2015 disqualification but he ought to be more famous as the 2010 winner, back in the days when he was a promising 25 year old battling bizarre characters like Ezequiel Mosquera, a sign of just how much the Vuelta has changed, how the startlist has become much richer. He’s come off a perfect Tour of Poland, a top-10 finish suggests the form is coming back after his successful Giro. But like his Giro the problem is going from contender to overall winner? He’ll have to climb faster than Froome and face the flat time trial later in the race and he’s never got the better of Froome since the Briton joined Team Sky. But it’s watching Nibali try that can enhance the race. Bahrain-Merida bring a strong if ageing team built around him, a similar core that Nibali had at the Giro.

Fabio Aru is playing poker with his career. He could have folded his hand and signed a new contract but has preferred to use the Vuelta to boost his status. This implies confidence and the 2015 Vuelta winner finds a course to his liking with many uphill finishes. But he remains an erratic rider, capable of searing accelerations on a summit finish one day, yet collapse the next. We saw this in the Tour but perhaps his defeat only puts him in a better place now? Possibly but this is conjecture and story-telling rather than science. Astana team mate Miguel Ángel López is one to watch too and the workplace politics could be a theme too, with the Colombian tied to the team and therefore, everything else being equal, surely the more protected of the pair? El Superman has had a good summer with strong riders in the Tour of Austria and the recent Vuelta a Burgos and remember that last year he won the Tour de Suisse and even won the final stage with a solo attack while wearing the yellow jersey. Done right and Aru’s presence should ease the pressure of him.

Alberto Contador has announced his retirement and prepares for a valedictory lap of Spain. If the retirement speech was a surprise perhaps it was done knowing that he is in form, he seems the kind who only wants to bow out on a high and if the form was off now perhaps he’d have tried one more year to ensure he could end on a high rather than leave via a backdoor. His Tour de France was discreet but crash-riddled for all the talk of being a fading force, some of it worthy, his racing and results in the Basque Country or Paris-Nice this year show what he is capable of. Still the impression is he’ll settle for a high profile stage win rather than the maillot rojo in Madrid. He shares the Trek-Segafredo team with John Degenkolb but still has a collection of helpers for the mountains.

Orica-Scott bring three genuine GC contenders and better still they’ll bring plans to use them in inventive ways too. Esteban Chaves had a quiet tour after returning from injury and then grieving the death of a close friend and now returns to a race that suits his climbing abilities but if he’s got his best form the 40km time trial is still a big concern. Adam and Simon Yates brothers link up and Adam is the fresher of the two but it’s the tactical combos on offer that make them all an exciting prospect, the team tried this year last year and it put Chaves on the podium.

Quick Step bring four riders who can shine in this race. Bob Jungels continues his progress but as we saw in the Giro he’s a rouleur who can still be limited by the biggest climbs even he is closing the gaps all the time. Julian Alaphilippe is the big interest, he has shown he can hang with the best on a mountain stage and beat them in the time trials but can he do it consistently over three weeks? Maybe not yet but it’ll be fun to watch and he looks likely for a stage win and he should be as fresh as a bowl of gazpacho after a season spent on hold following a knee injury in the spring. Local hopes are David de la Cruz who has been steadily improving and is in form following some great results in the Vuelta a Burgos. Enric Mas was also doing very well in the same race and is one to watch too in the mountains although he could be on team duties.

Another team with options is Sunweb. Wilco Kelderman is the leader and still a promising rider while Warren Barguil gets to do as he pleases, targeting a mountain stage. If the Frenchman has similar legs to the Tour de France he could take several but that’s a big conditional statement. There’s also Sam Oomen who could be on team duties but is also very promising.

BMC Racing’s management will be hoping for an opening stage win in the team time trial to bury Samuel Sanchez’s concerning positive test. Looking to the GC they have Tejay van Garderen, Nicolas Roche and Rohan Dennis for the GC with the American sitting quietly in the last chance saloon but still capable of a big win while the Australian is in a more comfortable position, able to use the Vuelta as a sandbox for future tilts at the GC in grand tours. Dennis is back for a crack at GC after crashing out of the Giro but this could be a selective approach as he tests himself on selected summit finishes and the Stage 16 time trial rather than trying to focus on the overall classification every single day.

Romain Bardet rides the Vuelta for the first time, the first time he’s started two grand tours in a season in fact and you wonder if starting and finishing is the main aim, to bank a huge block of racing in the legs. But if he’s climbing like he did in July he’ll feature on the climbs. His Marseille time trial in the Tour was almost a disaster but remember he was feverish so if he’ll worry about Logroño’s 40km test it need not be ruinous. Domenico Pozzovivo also rides and can climb high if he’s got over a recent bug. Ag2r La Mondiale bring a useful support team but are unlikely to shake things up, or try, as much as they did in July.

Rafał Majka

Rafał Majka is one of those riders starting the Vuelta to save their season after he crashed out of the Tour de France. He lost a lot of skin but the early exit should have given him time to recover and refocus on the Vuelta and the hilly course suits. An overall win seems unlikely but stage wins, the mountains jersey and a top-5 seems realistic.

Steven Kruijswijk is another in need of a result after his Giro didn’t go to plan and he returns to the Vuelta to haunt non-Dutch commentators and typists alike. His form is unknown but when on top of his game he’s unshakeable. George Bennett is a new name to add to our list of contenders but he was climbing with the best in the Tour de France until he fell ill. In his own words he was on the limit doing this but he gets better and brings Lotto-Jumbo more options and is capable in a time trial too.

UAE Emirates have Rui Costa and Louis Meintjes and might sign for a top-10 overall and a stage win along the way? One to watch is Anass Ait El Abdia, hardly a household name and his recent ride in the Tour of Poland was unremarkable but he was climbing well in the Tour de Romandie and the 24 year old Moroccan is promising.

Finally Katusa-Alpecin bring Ilnur Zakarin who enjoyed an excellent Giro and should come at the Vuelta fresher than most. Will the sharp climbs be too much for him? A win seems unlikely but he’s good in the time trials. Cannondale-Drapac’s Michael Woods is good on the sharp climbs the Vuelta offers but how is the form, he had a busy spring, did the Giro and then the Tour de Suisse so he could be frazzled when he needs to be fresh while Joe Dombrowski is a contender for the mountain stages with longer climbs late in the race. Movistar look orphaned but Marc Soler and Ruben Fernandez are local hopes while so is Jaime Roson for Caja Rural.

Chris Froome
Vincenzo Nibali
Fabio Aru, Miguel Ángel López, Ilur Zakarin, Adam Yates, Alberto Contador
Esteban Chaves, Romain Bardet, Julian Alaphilippe, Wout Poels, Wilco Kelderman
Kruijswijk, Jungels, Barguil, Simon Yates, de la Cruz, Majka, Bennett, Meintjes
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J Evans August 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Still can’t believe that Froome doesn’t focus on the Vuelta 100%, post-Tour. Does he really need more cash from the criteriums?

Graham August 18, 2017 at 12:25 pm

He got some decent results, lot of podiums……

hoh August 18, 2017 at 12:36 pm

I’d say it’s more the PR and a bit of post Tour fun (it’s literally partying for them) than the cash. Of course, the cash wouldn’t hurt.

DAVE August 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Interesting question. I wonder on this also – the answers I guess range between money, nothing better to do and better than a normal training session so why not? Maybe being respectful to the Tour in the hope of winning some French fans also? Or more deviously, banking good faith to get the benefit of the doubt in instances similar to Ventour 15?

This Vuelta does look phenomenal? What a start list?

Past years it would be shame missing Quintana, but not so this year given his being off the pace the last few seasons – only Porte could really up the ante.

Froome definitely fave, but fascinating to see how Orica play it, expect Zakarin to bring a lot and have Lopez down as the most likely to spring a Cobo/Horner-esq surprise.

With so many jokers in there we could easily have some unexpected shake ups on certain days.

Expect Kruijswijk to go well – but podium prediction (not in any order): Froome, Lopez, Bardet.

I think Bardet will go well, likewise Adam Yates, Nibali, Majka and Aru – just have a feeling Lopez will climb well and surprise, Froome will bank time in the TT and Bardet will be the best of the rest with Contador disappointing, Chaves not yet back to full flight and the second tier to remain the second tier (ie Jungels, Alaphillipe).

Very interested to see what Meintjes brings – can’t work out whether he’ll ascend to the front runners or in the Zubeldia of this generation.

Expect Froome to be ride defensively here (having managed form) and show at next years TDF he’s yet to lose his accelerations on the climbs.

Dave

Valverde's Knee August 18, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Cobo and Horner are best left unmentioned. But interesting that the first beat Froome and the second beat Nibali!

TourDeUtah August 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm

In order to become the next Zubeldia, you have to go unnoticed. Trouble is, he has been noticed. He is on the radar.

The only reason we noticed Haimar was because of his unique name and he did pull off a top ten in the Tour, without anybody realizing it. You rarely saw him on t.v. Not even being dropped.

If you went to a bike race and you knew Zubeldia was on the startlist, but you never noticed him during the race, even though you may have been looking for him to go by, personifies him.

I can’t say that about Meintjes.

The Inner Ring August 18, 2017 at 1:26 pm

It is odd but perhaps they’re rest day rides, an hour or 90 minutes of riding with some intensity along the way when there’s not much more needed, and all along he’s coining it rather than being bored.

StevhanTI August 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Greg Van Avermaet made some comments like that regarding the post-tour crits. If you stay upright there’s nothing wrong with it.

RonDe August 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm

I will nail my colours to the mast from the off and say that I think Chris Froome is going to win this Vuelta. I have numerous logical reasons for thinking this. My first is that Froome has, for the first time openly, targeted a double grand tour win. He was probably doing this last year as well (with the added complication of the Olympics) and fell just short, not least due to the well publicised brain fade Team Sky had as a unit on the stage to Formigal. In my view, that one huge failure took the double grand tour win from his hands in 2016. Still, he finished 1st and 2nd in two consecutive grand tours in the same season and who else can you say has done that recently? This year, with no Olympic complications and a training and race programme clearly dedicated to the double achievement, he is better prepared than ever.

My second reason is that there is no rider in the field better than him in grand tours. His closest challenger (according to bookies and fans) is Vincenzo Nibali, also a 4 time grand tour winner. But the head to head between the two in GC races (they have completed 14 GC races together over their careers according to PCS) makes interesting reading. Of those 14 GC races they have both finished (so Tour ’14 not included) Nibali has won only one (Tirreno 2013 in which Froome was 2nd). Froome has won six. Froome also has a further four podiums in those races. Nibali has only one. The head to head over the 14 races is 10-4 in Froome’s favour. The only grand tour Nibali has beaten Froome in head to head was the Tour in 2008. Most astonishingly, in the 14 head to head races Nibali was off the podium 12 times! Put simply, I do not see a way for Nibali to beat Froome in this race based on historic performances. Froome is simply the better man in the context of a GC race head to head. And this is before you factor in the team support both have.

My third reason is the time trial. Its 40.2kms (more in one ITT than the whole of the Tour ITT kilometers!) in this race and Froome may well win it. He will certainly beat every GC contender and some by a few minutes. If you think of the other contenders, Bardet, the Yates brothers, Chaves, Kruijswijk, Aru, these are not people to challenge Froome in what is a largely flat ITT scenario. Even the likes of Nibali, who according to PCS has only one recent ITT win over Froome, the 2015 short ITT in the Tour where Rohan Dennis set a new speed record which is not a comparable test to this Vuelta ITT, has a losing record against Froome in the ITT in GC races which goes 11-4 in Froome’s favour. This is important because time lost in time trials (Bardet and Chaves can expect to lose over 3 minutes by my estimate here) have to be made up in the mountains. But, as we have seen in recent grand tours and as others have remarked previously on this blog, these days we are seeing a lack of riders able to distance the field for significant time gaps. More usual is the fact we see small groups of 5 or 6 riders who are unable to drop each other. This happened in both Giro and Tour this year in fields containing all of the names we see in this Vuelta. Put simply, the top guys are quite evenly matched.

All this adds up to a scenario much like a slide rule where the best rider on average wins. Froome knows this and he has been quite unashamed to be the best “on average” in order to win. That’s how and why he won the Tour this year without a stage win. He didn’t need a stage win and he wanted the race win. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is his strategy again. It will garner no praise from cycling fans who want panache and to see a heroic figure racing away from his competitors. But Froome knows that his way to win the race, and so two grand tours back to back, is to play the averages and, if you like, race boring. Froome can almost certainly win this Vuelta by staying in the GC group on the climbs and winning the ITT because who is there in the field who can drop the rest and ride away? You cannot make a convincing case for anyone.

Froome is Mr Best On Average. But failing heroics he’s the man to beat.

J Evans August 18, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Just about overcoming my shock at your prediction (and reading straight past another chapter in the unrelenting Nibali/Froome debate – I’ll leave that for Gabriele), the one thing I would take issue with is ‘Team Sky’s brain fade’.
Froome should be able to think for himself – all he had to do was stay on Quintana’s wheel at the start of a trick stage, rather than dallying far behind.
That’s pretty much page one of ‘How to avoid tactical duncery’.
Shortly before this, Brailsford had said something along the lines of other riders needing to learn how to ride with powermeters – the brain is another important piece of kit (if less so than previously).

RonDe August 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Criticism accepted but, for me, it was the fact the whole team flunked and not just Froome. Froome is by no means the more complete rider that someone like Nibali is, for example. Their relative one day race records prove this admirably. Froome is, as I stated, Mr Best On Average and this skill set works best when trying to thread the needle of stage race wins. But it does leave you vulnerable to one off tactical mistakes such as we saw last year which more alert riders would not have made. I’m sure he berates himself long and often for his failure that day.

J Evans August 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Jovial criticism.

md August 18, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Sky were softened up the day before when they pulled for ages to bring Movistar back (I think it was Movistar, although I’m not sure). Then their sore legs they got hit straight out the blocks the day after. Classic 1-2.

RQS August 18, 2017 at 10:05 pm

I find all this ‘Froome is not the complete rider’ thing a little odd. He’s working within a team that has had a very defined tactical process which he works within – one day races have not been their forte, at all. So he’s not going to do compete on that plain particularly well, in the same way that many other riders don’t get to compete in a three week race. But within his speciality he has ridden in very different ways and I think he deserves a bit more respect, because every time I read he’s not this, and he’s not that he proves people that he has that tool in his locker…but I’ve read the threads, so I expect that you’ll tell me better. I’m not a Froome fan, for sure, but he’s no one trick pony.

Moving on: what I love about the Vuelta is that it throws up surprises. You’re never sure about the form of the best riders because they always peak for Le Tour. And the other riders exploit that, with parcours which are often more challenging and unpredictable than the Tour, it means that Sky’s tactics are less impressible on the race and it requires a rider to be much more on their mettle.

It should be exciting. If Froome has managed to carry form he’ll be tough to beat. But this year’s tour was the closest it’s been. Bardet could thrive on the Spanish rises. There are some good riders that missed the Tour and they will may well make the most out of a tired team Sky.

RonDe August 19, 2017 at 9:56 am

I’m not sure that Poels, Rosa, Moscon, Lopez, Stannard…. are that tired. Sky have sensibly limited those they’ve carried over from the Tour. Only Knees and Nieve have come along with Froome himself around whom the edifice is built. And you’re right. Froome has found differing ways to win. But my praise for Froome is barely accepted by many of the readers of this blog as it is so being accused of disrespecting him makes for some nice balance!

Richard S August 18, 2017 at 4:23 pm

‘I will nail my colours to the mast from the off and say that I think Chris Froome is going to win the Vuelta’

If ever a sentence didn’t need to be written down.

Dan August 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Haha – You just used 789 words over 5 paragraphs to tell us exactly what the blog said in 1 paragraph.

RonDe August 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm

And you apparently counted them! I gave reasons why Froome will win. Our host touted several contenders. Different purposes.

ErnieC August 18, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Well that is a surprise prediction.

J Evans August 18, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Fascinating list of contenders – including the Orica triumvirate. Can’t help but think it might be an infinitely more interesting race if Froome bows out early (without wishing anything untoward on him).

Any idea why Dumoulin isn’t riding? I suppose he could be focusing on the WC TT, but I’d have thought he’d have been a good prospect for this: a lot of steep climbs, as ever, but a reasonably long TT. The Binck Bank Tour is all very well, but I’d be having a tilt at as many GTs as I possibly could.

I’m tipping Kruijswijk (still a copy-and-paste for me) – and surely he merits more than one chainring – he’s had plenty of rest and can be as good as Nibali (note: ‘can’). I think he’s a good punt for the podium.

I’ll be cheering on Contador, though: whatever your thoughts on him (same as the others, if you ask me – see Sanchez), racing will be far less exciting without him.

RonDe August 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

To concentrate on the world ITT race was Dumoulin’s stated reason. But of the three grand tours the Vuelta must surely be the hardest for him given his skill set. Those short punchy finishes and vertiginous walls must get to him in the end.

jc August 18, 2017 at 1:06 pm

There was an article recently saying that Sunweb had deliberately not entered Tom Dumoulin into this year’s Veulta because they are making longer term plans. Either targeting the Tour or a Giro/Veulta double next year seems to be on the agenda depending on the course of the various races. It was felt a lighter race programme with an eye on the TT at the world championships was more sensible rather than over racing this year.

Ecky Thump August 18, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Man, Dumoulin is climbing well these days.
He was dropping established climbers left, right and centre at San Sebastian and BinckBank.
I think he’s gradually going beyond the ‘evenly-ramped power climber’ tag that was pinned on him after his Giro win.
He’s definitely shaping up to be the next nemesis for Nairo Quintana.

J Evans August 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

I have my own crackpot conspiracy theory about Nairo Quintana – age is his nemesis. He’s 34 years old – look at him, does he look 27? That would explain why he peaked 2013-5 and is struggling now (same age as Contador – who was also the best rider in 2014: ask Gabriele – further proof!). And why did he lie about his age? So that he can keep getting good contracts from teams thinking ‘He can only get better’.

Mancuniancandid August 18, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Cut him in half see how many rings he’s got.

RonDe August 18, 2017 at 5:11 pm

In Giro week 3 Dumoulin was getting dropped. Compare Vuelta week 3 in 2015. San Sebastian and Binck bank are not comparable scenarios. His challenge will always be not to get dropped in week 3 on the climbs and he won’t always have 70kms of ITT to play with.

Ecky Thump August 18, 2017 at 6:05 pm

I agree with you. But in a couple of seasons, at this rate of progress, it looks like Dumoulin will be the real deal and Quintana may have to wave goodbye to ever winning a Tour?

RonDe August 19, 2017 at 10:05 am

After the Tour in 2016 I started to think Quintana will never win the Tour. When he appeared in the Tour in 2013 and came second to Froome it seemed a foregone conclusion he would. The Giro win in 2014 boosted that thought further. But since then he’s revealed himself as less than an all-rounder. Look at who wins grand tours these days… Froome, Dumoulin, Nibali, Contador, Aru… and Quintana himself twice. But in that list Quintana seems the odd one out. He’s a pure climber hoping that climbing alone is good enough to win. All those other riders would beat him in a time trial and have other strings to their bow to fight on multiple fronts in a race and not just when the road goes up. It makes the plan for beating Quintana relatively simple: stay near him on the mountains. Its quite surprising to think that Froome has 59 days in yellow now. Quintana has 0 days. I’d put money on Dumoulin winning the Tour before Quintana ever does. IF he ever does.

hahostolze August 19, 2017 at 9:08 am

Sunweb see doing another GT as not benefiting Dumoulin’s development for next season. I don’t know what exactly that means but doing the Vuelta at full preparedness does mean you leave a little less time to start work on next season I guess.

Graham August 18, 2017 at 12:47 pm

He didn’t get a mention but I’m interested to see which Carlos Betancur turns up, could be interesting if he’s allowed to go for stage wins.

The Inner Ring August 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I felt I mentioned too many names already but it’s testament to the impressive start list. Betancur could be there for a stage win and has the room to go for this.

jc August 18, 2017 at 12:57 pm

After a few weeks sleepy holiday time back to bike racing.

Chris Froome is the obvious pick especially as he has a strong team around him. I would have thought barring the usual accidents and incidents he must be firm favourite.

As so often Vincenzo Nibali is a bit of an unknown. He could well lose time in the time time trail, it might only be 30 seconds but that is still a handicap to star of with. He often seems to get stronger as a race goes on, so can never be ruled out but if the other main players keep fit and avoid trouble I think a podium but not the top step.

Orica seem to have lots of options but again form is an unknown. Esteban Chaves is probably their main rider but as Inrng has pointed out the TT is an issue here though Orica often do well in TTTs.

Not convinced that Fabio Aru will have recovered from the Tour or that he has quite the right outlook though of course he has won here before.

Ilnur Zakharin is maybe a dark horse, has he shown late season form before?

It will be interesting to see if Stephen Kruijswijk is a genuine GT contender or if the 2016 Giro was a one off.

Valverde's Knee August 18, 2017 at 1:13 pm

When you think about it Froome can afford to lose 20-25 seconds on mountain top finishes a few times if he can expect to get 2-3 minutes in the time trial. We’ve seen him do that before in the Vuelta. Hard to see how anyone else beats him if he stays upright. Certainly whoever does would need to be on his absolute best form and on this year’s records there’s not really anyone standing out like a sore thumb.

MonsieurLePompideux August 18, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Rampas inhumanas!

AnotherDavid August 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Whilst remaining ever cynical re the doping issue – thanks Sanchez for bringing that back into the limelight, you cheat – this race, with all those climbing stages, will surely be one for the diligent cycling fan.

ErnieC August 18, 2017 at 11:30 pm

We can add the lost TUE laptop and jiffy-bag to the mix no? Cycnicism is a trait most cycling fans have acquired along the way, except, perhaps, the die-hard fanboys and one-eyed disciples. We can only hope it will all be cleaned up at some stage.

Free Landa August 19, 2017 at 10:10 am

If by “cynicism” you mean “formulating baseless theories based on evidence which could mean several different things and not just the thing I’m certain it means even though I have no idea” then I agree with you.

ErnieC August 20, 2017 at 7:53 am

Smoke fire

thierry August 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Lopez is clearly the rising star here. He will be second to Froome.
Many of the contenders will be limited by the long season. Aru and Bardet will be affected. Nibali is not a potentiel grand tour winner anymore… not against that kind of field.
Interesting race and many outcomes are possible. It will be fun.

Ecky Thump August 18, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Looking at the line-up that Sky have put together, it looks France-esque.
Unless there’s some Contador-inspired alliance, I can’t see anyone else getting away from the Sky boys.
Is that terrible heatwave still afflicting southern Europe?

JimmyT August 18, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Surely the Giro-Tour double is harder because so many top riders skip the Giro, meaning anybody attempting to double up will have to beat fresh competitors in July. For the Vuelta though, many of the big favourites have already ridden the Tour and so face many of the same challenge. Aru’s or Contador’s challenge in winning the Vuelta this year must surely be comparable to Froom’s double.

Richard S August 18, 2017 at 4:28 pm

I suppose if ever a race was open to some sort of surprise or ambush this would be it. There are so many contenders it’ll be quite hard to watch them all meaning somebody could slip off or create an ambush. Sky’s team is getting is but it’s not the a team. It’s an outside shot but it’s a chance. Froome will probably win comfortably in the end.

Richard S August 18, 2017 at 4:29 pm

*Skys team is strong

TourDeUtah August 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Such a powerhouse startlist.

Nix many GC contenders coming off a heavy Tour. Chaves did not race and Froome is the exception.

Luck, as always will play a role. Injury, illness, wrong end of a crash with 10k to go, or mechanical.

Nibali is plucky. A survivor. He can podium as long as he does not get caught grabbing onto team cars.

Kruze-ship and Lopez have to prove they can finish a bike race. But, if they do, they can podium.

TJ, Wilco, Yates2, Pozzo, Majka and Zak have to prove they can be consistent for 21 days.

In my mind, this comes down to Froome or Chaves.

On the topic of Majka, I wish he would give up on trying to be a GC guy. He can win loads of Big Mountain stages, KoM jerseys and go down as the greatest KoM champ ever, if he would be willing to lose time early in a race.

RonDe August 18, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Chaves is a truly terrible time triallist. I believe he lost 3.13 in the Vuelta ITT last year to Froome (who won it) and it was 3 kms shorter than the one this year. Where can you see him getting those 3 minutes back?

Andras August 19, 2017 at 3:29 am

Majka already has 4 top 10 (1 podium) finishes in grand tours and he is only 27. Why would he give up targeting the GC? And I think he is as consistent as any other top 10 rider usually.

noel August 18, 2017 at 5:04 pm

the real question is whether De Gendt will be in every single breakaway….

Billybob Thornton August 18, 2017 at 5:22 pm

He’s in my fantasy team so yes.

CarpofMessina August 18, 2017 at 5:24 pm

What is Orica’s playbook here? Keep firing one of the Yates boys and Chaves off the front until one of them snaps the elastic? Have they got a definite, pre-defined leader? Are they just saying who does best on the road leads? Seem crazy to have 3 GC guys to me. Especially when none of them are probably top step material quite yet. Smacks of shaking the tree to see what drops.

Brian August 19, 2017 at 6:53 am

The Yates bros. are going to switch numbers every other day and take turns attacking and resting.

AP August 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm

I’m not sure even DNA testing would tell those two apart. Orica have the chance of the perfect crime.

J Evans August 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Aren’t they fraternal twins, so no more alike than any other brothers, except they’re the same age? And – over here in pedants’ corner – they’d only share ~50% of their DNA.

AP August 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm

My biology knowledge is woeful, didn’t even know what a fraternal twin was until now… so, thanks.

Allegedly Anthony August 19, 2017 at 10:36 am

Well, that’sounds kind of the point – none of them are top step material yet, but if they keep working over themail others, one of them stands a chance of getting away. In Orica’s situation, theiron best chance of a HTC win at the moment is probably to target the weakest GT and put all three of their contenders in together to try to create some chaos. Thereplies doesn’t seem to be any problems with internal team rivalries, so the only likely downside would appear to be that there may be a shortage of domestiques?

Allegedly Anthony August 19, 2017 at 10:38 am

Sorry about the hideous mis-spellings above – malfunctioning and overzealous “autocorrect” in operation…

Eduardo August 18, 2017 at 8:24 pm

What do you expect for Caruso, Geniez and Roson?

Kit August 18, 2017 at 9:53 pm

With all my heart, I hope for another Cobo. I hope someone totally baffling mugs the lot of them. If nothing else than to prevent Sky winning it a la Sky.
Out of interest, why so few chainrings for Bardet? He’s surely only as tired as the others that also did the Tour? And I wonder, will Pozzovivo be a luxury domestique or a Giovanni Visconti?

Will Manzana Postobon feature in any upcoming previews?

ErnieC August 18, 2017 at 11:33 pm

+1 for something like that to happen – oh for just one GT sans team-radio and power meters. Use your head and your heart.

Tug Wilson August 19, 2017 at 10:30 am

Ernie, the 1970s want you back.

ErnieC August 20, 2017 at 7:54 am

Just once…

Adam August 19, 2017 at 12:03 am

For me this has been the most entertaining GT of the year for the past half decade, and the race I most look forward to all year. Thanks for the blog, looking forward to updates.

Esteban August 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

Always wonder why the Giro-Tour double seems impossible but the Tour-Vuelta seems possible. The explanation of Jimmy T could be the answer but I would like to know the opinion of others in this respectable forum, not so mention the valuable opinion of our blogger.
On other hand, I hope that Alberto say good bye with the red shirt. Vamos Alberto !!!!!

Richard S August 19, 2017 at 9:46 am

I think it is definitely doable for the right rider, If their was a genuinely superior GC rider around on the level of an Indurain or Hinault say. They would have to be good /superior enough to either go into the Giro undercooked and still win it or to be able to win the Tour whilst not at their best. Froome could probably do it, and maybe in a couple of years Dumoulin. It won’t work if you aren’t the best and you are coming in to the Tour tired against a superior rival. Like what has happened in recent years with Contador and Froome. Obviously it’s risky and teams would rather not risk messing up the Tour. Sky have clearly done an equation that shows Froome will be .7% less effective on a 10km summit finish on the 4th day of the 3rd week of the Tour if he rides the Giro, so he isn’t allowed. It works with Tour-Vuelta though because the best riders try it and they are all in the same boat fatigue wise.

Richard S August 19, 2017 at 9:47 am

That should say Contador and Quintana

Valverde's Knee August 19, 2017 at 10:20 am

Strictly speaking its not the case that the Tour-Vuelta double IS more doable than the Giro-Tour one. Neither have recently been achieved. The closest anyone has come to either is Froome’s 1st and 2nd last year. The other best grand tour riders of our current time, Contador, Nibali and Quintana, have all failed in Giro-Tour doubles not least because they would need to beat a fresh Froome to do it. But in each case other riders have beaten them too. All this suggests that to do either your training and form have to be absolutely perfect with no room for error at all.

Valverde's other knee August 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Not to mention, that winning the Giro – Vuelta double has only been done once since 1995 (the year it moved to August), by Contador; so even if a rider chose to skip the Tour it’s fair to say it’s a huge ask.
Riders who’ve done a double of any type even vaguely recently are: Pantani, Roche, Indurain. All who have doping question marks over them, not that I want to disparage their achievement.
I’d be much happier to see a different rider win each GT of the year, and am often quite surprised to see riders try two with sincere ambitions at the GC.

Valverde's Knee August 19, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Contador is also the last rider to win two in a row of any kind, i.e. Vuelta 14 and Giro 15 but obviously not in the same season.

Frank Carbo August 19, 2017 at 2:37 am

On the Froome GC favourite debate: if he had never entered the Tour — let alone won four — he would still be favourite for this race, given his recent record. “Surely this time the nearly man can do it,” we’d say.

The route is fabulous, though — as is the lineup combination of the quality names and the various stages of the season they’re all at. I’m struggling to run of a Grand Tour that excited be so much. The adrenaline is going to be bleeding out of the TV on plenty of stages. Last year had better mano-a-mano hill finishes than many GTs. I know it doesn’t have the lustre of the Giro or the global prestige of the Tour, but the Vuelta has been brilliant in recent years. From Horner on the Angliru and beyond.

Cannot wait.

Giddy fanboy ramble over.

Wide-eyed Unbelief August 19, 2017 at 10:25 am

Forgive me, but not everyone found the sight of granddad Horner winning a grand tour in his 40s that “brilliant”. Ditto Senor Cobo who got a mention above. Its a bit like watching the recent Volta a Portugal where Team W52-FC Porto were climbing mountains faster than any Sky train would ever manage.

Unbelievable Jim.

Kit August 19, 2017 at 1:01 pm

“Unbelievable” and “believable” are often not good ways to work out the dopers, not to mention that it makes all victories very hollow. If Sammy Sanchez is indeed guilty, for example, there’s been little that’s unbelievable about his performance recently.

Rich August 19, 2017 at 3:40 am

An advantage Froome has here over those that did the Tour is that he has experience of doing the Tour and Vuelta back to back and making it work. Even Contador has never started a Vuelta having finished the Tour.
With that in mind I expect his challengers to come from the Giro riders – Nibali, Zakarin, Kruijswijk and A Yates

Cat 6 August 19, 2017 at 4:02 am

Thanks Mr Inring. Truly cannot wait for this race to begin. Froome has made me a fan over last several years, so wont be disappointed to see him win GC by 3-5 min. Hoping for a free-for-all in places 2-10, and bold moves may pay off as riders in those spots do battle. Nibali has the savy to separate from the rest, but almost more intriguing will be if Orica can pull a rabbit out of their 3 hats…
Lets get this party started.

MattF August 19, 2017 at 9:14 am

Sammy Sanchez’s positive test ‘concerning’ – too right it is. Not to be glossed over. Here is the 2008 Olympic Champion in the sport of road cycling and a highly successful pro with 19 years experience throwing his career away. These antics are slowly killing this sport I suggest watching the documentary ‘Icarus’. It’s fascinating and disturbing. Would love to hear Inrng’s take on it too.

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