Vuelta a España Preview

In his autobiography ex-pro Charly Wegelius likens the Vuelta to “the crew of a pirate ship“, “either riders didn’t want to be there or they were desperate to perform.” Thanks to its position as the last mountain stage race of the year the race offers redemption for some who haven’t had the season they want. For others the Vuelta a straight target, a prestigious goal and this year there’s the added twist of a training camp with several likely to hone form ahead of the World Championships in Innsbruck. We might question the motivations but it makes for a more lively race and increases the chance of surprise amid a field packed with strong contenders. Here’s a look at the GC contenders for the next three weeks…

Route summary: not as wild as recent editions but all the same we get two time trial stages totalling a meagre 40.7km and nine uphill finishes of which eight are either goat-path rampóns or achingly long… or both meaning a pure climber can hope to win this by opening a few gaps and collecting some time bonuses of which 10-6-4 seconds await at the finish line and 3-2-1 for the intermediate sprints. There are seven possible sprint finishes with an advantage to more versatile riders over the bulkier drag strip specialists.

Miguel Angel Lopez

Miguel Ángel López took two summit finish stage wins last year and made the top-10 on GC albeit nine minutes down. He was closer in this year’s Giro where he stood on the podium in Rome and if he didn’t get a stage win he was close and more consistent which matters for a GC contender. Now he looks back on form after finishing second in the Vuelta a Burgos, the best guide to form pre-Vuelta which makes him a more assured pick for the podium. But how to win? The two time trials are not his thing so he’ll have to outclimb everyone and this is a tall order. He’s still 24 and so there’s no rush and comes with a decent team for the mountains where Pello Bilbao, Omar Fraile, Jan Hirt and Davide Villella can all offer support and also snipe for stage wins.

Yates brothers, Vuelta 2018

If Movistar have El Tridente then Mitchelton-Scott have the BBQ fork with the twin prongs of the Yates brothers. Simon Yates is presented as the leader, the Vuelta has been a goal soon after he recovered from seeing the Giro slip from his grip. If he can show up with the form from the Giro in his legs and the lessons in his head then he could win the race outright. He’s got the punchy finish to take stage wins and is decent in the time trial for someone who weighs less than 60kg but expect a different way of racing as in May he was trying to snipe every time bonus going to build up a buffer on Tom Dumoulin, now he may worry about others in the TT but will probably try to ride more economically. Adam Yates (he’s got the beard) by contrast seems to be a late entrant and there’s less talk about him, partly because of expectations but also because his Tour de France was a flop so there’s less of a buzz around him but if he makes amends he could thrive here too. Jack Haig who could try for a top-10 too but Mitchelton-Scott and Damien Howson is a valuable support while the team will compete on two fronts with Matteo Trentin goes for the sprints and has a small train in support.

Nairo Quintana, Col du Portet 2018

Nairo Quintana will want to pick up where he left off in the Vuelta, he won it the last time he rode in 2016 but ever since he’s lacked fizz, especially in the last two editions of the Tour de France. Of all the riders with stories of redemption and revenge Quintana probably has the strongest need to show he can still be a grand tour winner, a podium finish would be reassuring but anything worse would be awkward. Movistar bring a strong team with Alejandro Valverde still going strong but probably finding grand tours victories beyond his reach while Richard Carapaz was one of the revelations of the Giro and now faces the tricky second album test to back up his Italian ride.

Richie Porte has only ridden the Vuelta once and in 2012 he finished 68th overall. Given his run of bad luck simply matching this would be a start, in fact at the time of writing it’s not so much a run of bad luck as the runs of bad luck as gastric grief forced him to skip last night’s team presentation and his start in the race isn’t certain because of illness so he gets docked a chainring below. The bedevilled Tasmanian crashed out of the Tour de France but the saving grace was that his injuries were relatively light so he’s had winning the Vuelta on the mind for weeks now. It’s a legitimate goal, if he can get over the illness he’s excellent on the shorter climbs and the 32km time trial on Stage 16 gives him a comparative advantage over the purer climbers. Once again luck and regularity are his concerns but can he really be so unlucky, for so long? His BMC team are strong on paper but loyalties and ambitions may vary, for example will Dylan Teuns want his chances for the snappier uphill finishes and is Rohan Dennis here on a pre-Worlds training block?

Wilco Kelderman gets a shot at team leadership, a rare chance given he looks bound to be a lieutenant for Tom Dumoulin in the years to come. The smooth-pedalling Dutchman will look forward to the time trial but can he climb? Yes given he finished fourth overall here last year. The concern is form because after crashing out of the Dutch championships he’s undergone surgery and would probably prefer to have more time to prepare and this is his first race since June. Sunweb team mates Jai Hindley and Michael Storer will be worth watching in the mountains too.

Vuelta podium, Madrid 2017

Another rider who isn’t on the radar but ought to be is Ilnur Zakarin. He made the podium last year thanks to some consistent riding, no stage wins but no collapses either. The whole Katusha-Alpecin team, management included, will be under pressure to deliver a result after Zakarin salvaged a top-10 in the Tour de France and finished in Paris with only three team mates.

Vincenzo Nibali is talking down his chances and if all contenders like to do this, it’s worth hearing the Sicilian because his back injury in the Tour de France has kept him off the bike for some time and if he’s famously a rider more suited to the final week this time he may well be training for the World Championships as well meaning he goes into the race not thinking about winning overall and plans to leave it without winning either. But Bahrain-Merida bring a strong team with Ion and Gorka Izaguirre as outsiders for the GC and more likely stage winners, plus the unheralded Hermann Pernsteiner who has been climbing well plus the impressive Mark Padun, a Ukranian neo-pro who was all over the Tour of the Alps back in April but seems to be in the deep end having done Pais Vasco, Romandie, the Tour de Suisse and could be overcooked by now.

Thibaut Pinot, Giro 2018

Thibaut Pinot is back to good health having made the podium in the Tour of Poland on his comeback from pneumonia after he finished the Giro in hospital. Health is an issue, can he complete three weeks without breaking down… and does he want to? He’s a rider who often enjoys the cold and rain given he lives at altitude in eastern France but his home has had a long heatwave so scorching weather may not be so problematic for him. He too has the Innsbruck Worlds on his mind, the Vuelta GC would be nice but not essential. Still he’s got the talent to thrive in this race and packs a punch for a sprint in a small group.

Fabio Aru, Giro 2018

Fabio Aru won the 2015 Vuelta but since then his palmarès has got the glory we and he might have expected. He’ll find the time trials difficult but if he’s finally back to his best then stage wins and a high place overall could happen. He might have had a lacklustre start to the season but so did Dan Martin who turned things around for the Tour de France and now the Irishman can hope for stage wins and a high place on GC but the TT is probably a roadblock to the win.

Rigoberto Uran, Tour de France 2018

Rigoberto Uràn crashed out of the Tour de France but has quickly changed focus for the Vuelta. He’s potential podium material as he can climb well and is handy in a time trial too but has been irregular. EF Education First-Drapac team mate Michael Woods is recovering from a crash in the Tour of Utah and seems on track, he was in the top-10 overall here last year but for all the climbing potential a podium finish is a tall order.

George Bennett and Steven Kruijswijk (pictured) lead Lotto-Jumbo, the form team of the moment. Kruikswijk had a strong Tour de France and Bennett is a lively rider with a good chance of a stage win. Can they win outright? Probably not but this will make the race all the more lively as they hunt for stage wins. Sep Kuss is worth watching too after his rampant Tour of Utah but don’t assume he’ll boss the Vuelta, the field is much deeper and so the Vuelta is a bonus for the neo-pro.

We’ve got this far and haven’t mentioned Team Sky and the team is less likely to try and put the race under a tactical curfew. David de la Cruz is their leader and capable of a top-10, he’s been seventh two years ago and could crack the top five. He’s having a strong season and has a strong team behind him. Michał Kwiatkowski will be one to watch in the mountains, can he string a bid for the GC together, or more likely test himself on a couple of days ahead of the worlds? Sergio Henao can make the top-10 and Tao Geoghegan Hart gets his first grand tour test, as does neo-pro Pavel Sivakov.

Enric Mas is an underrated stage racer because he’s at Quick Step, a squad not often associated with this branch of the sport but finished an impressive fourth in the Tour de Suisse earlier this year and won the Arrate stage of the Tour of the Basque Country and now the Vuelta is his goal. He won’t win and at 23 barely ineligible for the concurrent Tour de l’Avenir instead, and has time to work on his time trialling. Look out for stage wins and to see how long he can stay high on GC.

Bora-Hansgrohe bring Emmanuel Buchmann for the GC and the German climber has finished in the top-10 of all the five World Tour stage races he’s done this year, a consistent performance he’ll hope to translate into a grand tour now. He’s got Davide Formolo who’s in form and could crack the top-10 too and Rafał Majka had a stage win last year. Obviously Peter Sagan is the star name and we’ll see how he’s climbing ahead of Innsbruck, presumably he’s also going to quit before Madrid.

Lastly Bauke Mollema says he’s not racing for GC but the Trek-Segafredo team said he is and even if he isn’t he could. Dimension Data bring Louis Meintjes who needs a result and if he can rediscover his form from previous years he can crack the top-10.

Simon Yates, Richie Porte
Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel Lopez
Thibaut Pinot, Wilco Kelderman, Rigoberto Urán
Zakarin, Aru, De la Cruz, Buchmann

102 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Preview”

  1. Well Sky won’t win it so I expect all the conspiracy theorists to suddenly become big Vuelta fans. Still, a Briton might. Every silver lining has a cloud.

      • Allan – I totally agree. Sky can’t be counted out.

        Even Kwaitko could be a contender. In the 2017 and 2018 TdFs he had some massive rides. But my money would be on Cruz or Henao to really shine in these mountains with Kwiatko building climbing form for Worlds with some huge rides as mountain domestique.

  2. An underwhelming field. One for the Nibalis and Quintanas to bolster their palmares with knowing that the best, which judging by the Tour and Giro is Dumoulin, Froome and Thomas, are absent.

      • As big name after big name didn’t put their hand up for the vuelta, I thought the same thing. It’s light start lists like this that nibali has used to build his GC palmares. Only really need Quintana to crash and Valverde to focus on rainbows and Nibali can go to 4 GC wins without beating anyone who has another career GC podium.

  3. Really excited for this race, lots of big name riders with something to prove after various setbacks this season. Hopefully the race is decided on the road and not through crashes or other unfortunate incidents.

    • Big names? Who? Porte who hasn’t finished a grand tour in two years? Quintana who was the TENTH best rider in France? Ageing Nibali who hasn’t won a grand tour in two years? Simon Yates who can win a 17 day race but not a 21 day one? Its also rans. It might be an exciting race but its not a race of the best against the best.

      • Calm down, it’s ok. I was just making the point that compared to Vueltas in the past there are more top riders here. Just because Froome and Dumoulin are not on the start line that doesn’t make it a weak field.

        • 2008 Contador
          2009 Valverde
          2010 Nibali
          2011 Cobo!
          2012 Contador
          2013 Horner!
          2014 Contador
          2015 Aru
          2016 Quintana
          2017 Froome

          Recent history suggests either a genuinely dominate rider wins or its someone from left field (Valverde, young Nibali, Cobo, Horner and Aru all fit that category).

          This year feels a “left field” year. But how left field?

      • It’s the lack of the current “best of the best” that makes this vuelta interesting. There’s at least 10 riders who could have legitimate hopes of a win.

    • Crashes or „unfortunate“ incidents decided races since the beginning of racing. May it be running, riding, skiing, horse riding or whatever. As in life, this is part of a race. It belongs to racing to be smart and fortunate enough to not crash. It belongs to racing to win, because your opponent was unfortunate. That is totally fine. You weren‘t the one causing the unfirtunate event, so why should you be punished for it? What would be „fair“ about that? If crashing or incodents would not be part of the racing, the races would be neutralised the moment someone crashes or has a mechanical (which would also mean the end of the sport). As it is not, I think we should finally stop with the nonsense of obsessing about judging who and what is worthy.

      This whole judging is so depressing. Once upon a time it wasn’t so important, because nobody heard the people when they vented miserably on their couch, ending with a „I could do that, too, if I trained hard enough!“. But today this has a real impact for the races. It always reminds me of people sitting on their couch with their hands folded over their belly like little buddhas, thinking they are gods and have the allknowing point of view to judge once and for all what is right and what is wrong. Problem is the next person is thinking the same. And it gets only worse with different cultures coming into the sport and having different ideas about what is fair, yet everybody thinks they alone have the ultimate right to decide and voice who is good and who not.

      What is so difficult in just letting this negativity go and rather enjoy the race, that is on than moaning about a race, that is not happening?

      I couldn‘t believe it, when I read that alsphilippe asked, if he should wait for one of the yates as he crashed at the Tour. That is what this hysterical internet/social media judging has done to cycling: That riders are even afraid to ride and win, because they fear the tribunal afterwards. I think the best thing for all sides, especially for the fans themselves, would be, if we, who don‘t race, don‘t open our mouth so much.

      There are things, where it is right and important to say something, things that have nothing to do with racing a bike, but belong to being a decent human being, like when a rider hits someone or is a racist (or both). These are things, that are bigger and more important than any race. But there are a tons of things, that are just normal results of racing a bike, like every profession has their quirks, that no outsider can (and should) judge. And to say a win is unworthy, because rider x or y didn‘t ride or crashed is nonsensical to me.

      • Like crashing or other incidents, doping and/or other illegal performance assistances have also been a part of racing since the beginning, but just because something is traditional that doesn’t make it good. Lucky riders will get the win, but to get the glory you really have beat the other guys mano-a-mano than just luck your way into victory. That’s why not many people talk in hushed tones of Nibble’s 2014 TDF victory, had he beaten Contador and Froome on the climbs and stood above them on the podium in Paris, now that would have been a victory to remember.

        • +1 Augie.

          There is such a thing as context. There is another thing called the pub discussion. Was this win equal to that one, etc. It is just talk but to those participating in the conversation it is meaningful. If it isn’t for you that’s fine too for it is not compulsory to take part or to agree. Proper debate means ANY point is rhetorically challengeable with other arguments.

          But I agree it is bad when Alaphilippe is worried about attacking because Adam Yates has crashed. He crashed. Hard luck for him but that can happen to anyone at anytime. Race on. There should probably be a moratorium on all the “after you, no after you” that is going on lately. If people have bad luck, they have bad luck. (PS that should apply equally to all and not just riders I or you may like or not.)

        • That is really one of the worst strawmanning of some times. This is not about tradition (nice play to try the old school versus new fans play, but very cynical to say doping and cheating is a tradition. And as you might have noticed I wrote about all races, not just cycling). Nobody talks of Nibalis Tour win in a „hushed“ tone. That is easily the most funniest thing I heard in a while (and I watched american and australian politics the last days). There are a few, who bring this always up, because they have a problem to understand the concept of reality: Even, if froome would have taken part in the whole race, it wouldn‘t have meant he is important. It could just have been as with the yates in this Tour: he was in the race and he played no role whatsoever. yates could have as well have quitted, that wouldn‘t have made a difference. And in that scenario, what would the people then have used for excuses for their negativity and their personal dislike of someone:“Well, if froome would have been good, the race would have been different“. Come on, that is silly. Just as well you can say: „When a GT is only 1 stage long, it also would be a different race. „

          Why debate about things, that never happened? Just because we think our own feelings are more important than what actually did happen? This „debate“ would have some merit, if you would know for sure, that the thing you rue, would have made exactly the difference that you think it would have made. But in real life this is not the case. So it is only some people not being able to let go of fixed ideas. What we can say is: The race maybe would have been different with rider x or without crash y. What does that tell us? Nothing. Why get so hung up about that, that you only speak in a „hushed“ tone about a Tour de France win?

          Why this bothers me at all is not because I like to carp on about it to destroy „debate“, but because this behaviour to me is horribly selfcentred: There were people, who just bust out their soul and heart in 90min, 3 weeks or 800m and train hard for that and then people go on not enjoying and honouring their win, but begin immediately to find reasons why that win isn‘t worthy. For real? Is that what makes them feel good? Oh my.

          There are legitimate reasons to talk about a win, but the „what could have been“ scenario sinply is none to me, because we are not gods, who know what could have been. To me it is ok, when the „could have, would have“ angle is debated shortly after a race, but if some can not let go of it and use it to judge the worth of others, I think this is not funny anymore. I think we all would profit from not thinking ourselves so important and allmighty and sinply enjoy and honour the craft of others more.

          • Well I too spent the day watching Australian politics, but there too one can talk of luck and stumbling at the finish line. If you don’t like retrospective commentary on races you may be in for a tough time on this blog as poring over past results and discussing what could have been is rather popular in these parts. If you want to get reductive all talk about expired sporting events is redundant, and unless you’re a pro rider or otherwise involved in the sport you’re an armchair commentator too so can’t claim any sort of moral high ground.

          • With regards to the 2014 TDF, Nibali completely destroyed the field in that race, and was well ahead of both Contador and Froome when they quit! I think he would have won that edition no matter what. But as Anonymous said, whats the point in discussing it? Nibali won that race fair ad square, and deserves the credit to go with it!

            Then you say, that you should beat the opponent mano o mano to get credit for the victory? The last guy to do that was Froome in the Giro, and all he got for that was being compared to Landis and called cheater!
            In my opinion one of the greatest victories in many years!

            As regards to the “what ifs” when riders crash and so on, I dont like it either. If Porte didnt crash, he might have allready won several grand tours! Or none… And staying on your bike is a big part of cycling! Look at Armstrong! I know he was a cheater, but he was also a master on the bike! There is a reason he never crashed out of the TDF! Sagan rarely goes down as well, and Dumo and a couple of others…
            It comes down to bike handling and having the guts and technique on the downhills! Cycling isnt just about power in your legs! Tactics, bike handling, timing, descending, sprinting, a good team and so on! Its all an equal part of it…

          • Agree with you wholeheartedly on 2014 tdf
            I remember nibalis ambush on the run in to Sheffield and his ride on the cobbles. Froome and contador were already on the back foot before they crashed out. It really irks me that nibali is never given credit for this win.

          • Maybe there are those who think that beating JC Peraud by minutes just isn’t all that impressive. He certainly didn’t beat Contador and Froome. They crashed out.

          • Not the point though when looking at they guy who didn’t crash. If you entered a GT and every other rider crashed out you would win if you didn’t. What would that mean? That you were suddenly one of the favourites for your next GT start? Come on. Nibali won the race and it’s a great achievement but how ever you spin it, it’s not as good a win as it would have been had Froome and AC had no issues at all and Nibali had still won. There’s simply no denying that.

          • Its the difference between winning a race, Nibali did win the 2014 TDF, and beating your opponents fair and square, head to head. He didn’t do that. And, truth be told, very rarely has against Contador and Froome.

          • I don‘t think it is so difficult to understand: To win a race you have to beat your opponents to the finish line.

            When people say Nibali‘s win doesn‘t count, because froome was not there, then froome‘s win doesn‘t count, when Nibali wasn‘t there. When people say Nibali is not a good rider, because he is unable to beat froome in the Tour, then one can say, that froome is not a good bike rider, because he is unable to do what almost any other rider in the peloton does, namely race different races and a whole season. Then one can say, that if froome wouldn‘t be towed to the line by other riders in his team, he would be unable to win anything on this planet, then one can say, that only when froome is able to have a complete palmares of well rounded and different races, he will be considered a good rider, but certainly not, because he wins always the same two or three races in the same way.

            I think my point is clear: Ifs and when are simply not real. They say nothing about the truth or reality. The only one they say something about is the person saying them.

            To answer your oh so relevant scenario in the same vein: If all others are unable to finish, because they can‘t ride their bike, who says, that in the next race, they will be able to do that? Maybe they all crash again and rider x wins again, because he is the only finisher? Maybe it isn’t „luck“ that the one rider stayed upright, maybe all others were on pills and had a bad reaction time, which made them crash and rider x was the only one riding not high?

            I think my point is clear: Ifs and whens are simply not real. They say nothing about the truth or reality.

            And to use them as reasoning, to judge an event, that has already happened or even worse to judge the worth of an event, as if ifs and whens would be an objective truth is silly. It is to me the typical selfishness and emotional lazyness of people, who want to bend everything their way and have difficulties to respect others or to be gracious to others. We are not bigger than reality (why I think this is important at all is the state of the world around us. One of the reasons why populism, fascism is so popular right now is, that it allows people to be as petty and selfcentred as they want to be without feeling bad about it, to disrespect and dimish the work, rights and being of others and to disown others of everything, even of the reality. And it all starts with selfishness, with the convenience of judging events the way we want it, establishing an alternative „truth“ and putting ourselves and our feelings above everything and anybody else).

            A different thing is it, when we talk about things, that haven‘t happened. Then the debate, the if and whens, the context is of course „real“ and the way to gauge the possibility and propability of the coming events. Then I think it is totally appropriate to talk endlessly about the ifs and whens and invent different scenarios.

          • To be fair, Froome was on his second Album syndrome in 2014. Crashing out the Tour and loosing to AC in Vuelta is probably part of what built him up for the ensuing years of dominance.

        • Dear anonymous, please could you reread your posts and correct the many mistakes before you post them. Then I might bother to read them. And what’s wrong with having a user name?

          • English is not his first language. Give him a break. And as to posting anonymous, thats an option the site owner allows. So its entirely appropriate to use it.

          • Instead of being arrogant and unfriendly, you could have told me the mistakes you see. That would have at least changed things for the better for both of us. But making things better wasn’t really your point anyway.

            I am absolutely super fine with you not reading my comments. I don‘t think you could do much with them anyway.

        • It’s ridiculous to equate crashing with doping, Augie.
          Crashing is often down to skill. Skill is often necessary to win races.
          If you crash the other person beats you.
          Cheating will always happen, but it is not an inevitable or integral part of the sport: bike-handling is.

  4. Froome made an error this year. He had yellow jerseys in his eyes which, despite the result, was always a prospect on a knife edge after the Giro. He should have done the Giro and the Vuelta. He would have been nailed on for two wins and two grand tours in the year. He is getting older and the wins will dry up one day. His legacy will now be how many he wins and he would have bossed this field in which his closest challengers would have been all the guys he has beaten numerous times before. Only Dumoulin is close to him and that’s because he races like him. No one here would have been a genuine threat. But he was greedy and now Sky come to this race with no genuine prospect of very much at all. Terrible planning if you ask me albeit you will say they won the two biggest tours of the year and the Vuelta is a bit of a booby prize.

    Still, the neutrals will love a more open race, I’m sure.

    • Which would you rather have, that Sky aren’t always competitive and we get more winners or that Sky win this race with De la Cruz and Kwiato and people start all over again about how some guy who couldn’t have ever won a grand tour has won one?

      Better for the sport someone else wins.

    • This is nuts.
      He came third at the Tour?
      No guarantee he’d win Vuelta – he doesn’t have a right to win every race he enters!
      Plus he’s not the dominant rider of ’15 so even less guarantee.
      & the three week gap this year to the Tour made it the perfect year for Giro/Tour double.

      Basically… it comes down to which you’d prefer to win… Tour or Vuelta, everyone knows the answer to that question… and if he’s able to podium in the Tour then you’re only a crash, bit of luck away from winning, so you have to go for it…

      He made the right decision – no question. To be honest, when you’ve one 6xGT’s you can do whatever you want…

    • (STILL DAVE)

      This is nuts.
      He came third at the Tour?
      No guarantee he’d win Vuelta – he doesn’t have a right to win every race he enters!
      Plus he’s not the dominant rider of ’15 so even less guarantee.
      & the three week gap this year to the Tour made it the perfect year for Giro/Tour double.

      Basically… it comes down to which you’d prefer to win… Tour or Vuelta, everyone knows the answer to that question… and if he’s able to podium in the Tour then you’re only a crash, bit of luck away from winning, so you have to go for it…

      He made the right decision – no question. To be honest, when you’ve one 6xGT’s you can do whatever you want…

      • You don’t need the right to win a race Duncan (or is it Dave?). You just need the ability. I presume (always a tricky business) you don’t dispute he has the ability.

      • Froome would certainly have been a huge favourite for the Vuelta if he had skipped the TDF! But instead he went for greatness and chasing history! I love that! Same he did with riding the Giro this year, instead of focusing on the TDF (he might have won it by skipping the Giro).

        I would much rather have riders aiming high and missing, than aiming for the low hanging fruit and playing it safe! Also it goes with the mindset of Froome. To go all in chasing his goals! I love that Dumo tried the double as well! Roglic who went all in on the last mountain stage as paying for it on the TT instead og playing it safe? Thats whats makes the races exciting 🙂

        I also loved the way Yates rode the Giro! Though in the end it turned out not to be the wisest tactics, it was fun and exciting to watch!

    • I think the quality of Froome’s legacy remains largely dependent upon whether he wins a fifth TdF. As was the the situation prior to the start of the 2018 edition. I not a fan of him or his team, but I don’t blame him for starting it and not the Vuelta, much less think he’s greedy for doing so.

    • giro-vuelta ?

      i think that didnt even cross the minds at sky.
      THE tour team leaving ot the tour with their strongest rider (as of start of 2018)

      its only very recently that they (really) care for races outside the tour. now that they won giro&vuelta it mabe will go back to normal: these races are a way to reward the lieutenats of july for their services.

      • But now they know Thomas can win too. Bernal will also soon enough be in a position to at least challenge. In 2019 and 2020 I can see Sky wanting a grand tour year sweep.

  5. Too much chainrings for Porte.
    If you claim gastro problems a day ahead of the start, I’ll put all my money on that after the Vuelta, his GT palmares will be as bad as always.
    Same with all the Sep Kuss fuss. Wining a minor stage race in the US against mostly nobodies, fine. So he’s immediately the next TvG for a GT, really?

    • I like comments like this.
      So silly.

      It’s a bit like when people used to say ‘Ronaldo can’t do it in big matches’ and then he did and everyone found something else to criticise… is it jealously or the fact you liked him and he let you down that breeds these feelings?

      Yes Porte hasn’t won a grand tour. Yes everyone has every reason to doubt given his endless run of bad luck, poor decisions and descending jitters (Paris Nice 15, TDF 17 most obvs examples)

      But this doesn’t mean he is not capable.
      Wiggins was 4th in TDF ’09 and first by ’12.
      Porte was 5th in TDF ’16 and should have been higher, and 7th in his first Giro.

      He is perfectly capable and has shown it multiple times… whether that will translate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give him the chainrings…

      He strangely one of the only riders you feel is genuinely capable of taking it to Team Sky at the Tour but for whatever reason hasn’t been able to show this. I would say Porte is a more capable rider than many on the above list, including GT winners like Aru.

      • Wiggins needed the perfect course, an iffy field and a top rival who couldn’t challenge to win his one and only grand tour (not to mention controversial injections).

        Arguing (from silence) that Porte is also capable will always be speculation unless he does. Compare Thomas (who had a future prodigy and current grand tour great as backup).

      • The lack om competition in Kuss win is excactly why it will be exciting to see him in the Vuelta against top riders! Not because he is expected to make a huge impact, but because it will go a long way to show if he has the potentiale to be great in a couple of years…

        With regards to Porte I totally agree with Duncan! Porte has shown in plenty races, that he has the abilities to challenge the best grand tour riders in the world! If he can muster 3 weeks without crashing or getting ill is a totally different matter! To put it in poker terms: He has a huge ceiling but unfortunately also a pretty low floor…

          • So because he didnt do well in a race in 2016 as a very Young rider, then he cant be talented? Jesus Christ!

            Did you know that the last l’Avenir winner to also win the tdf was Fignon! And he eon the tdf first! So Im not sure the l’Avenir should be your first choice in measuring who will be great riders…

          • Well Tom, Bernal is already winning world tour races and finishing in the top 15 of grand tours at age 21 as a domestique. He only finished seconds behind Valverde, in fact. Kuss beating a few Americans in a race that was much lower class hardly compares.

      • So silly, only that the man himself agrees with me somehow.
        “he idea that he would ride for the Vuelta’s general classification, Porte repeated, was one that neither he nor his team had ever argued was feasible. “You hear of yourself being one of the [Vuelta] favourites but I don’t feel like that,” he said. “I’m certainly nowhere near what I was in the Tour”

    • Sorry, I am not sure why the rant about Sepp Kuss…our host names him as one to watch, in the same vein as TGH and Pavel Sivakov, I would suggest, and is not making any fuss about him as a GT contender. I am intrigued by the prospects of a number of the young riders mentioned as this is their biggest test to date. Nobody’s thinking they are going to contend.

  6. Pressure is on many of the names listed to race. They don’t have the cover of Sky setting tempo and content to just follow. Sky has provided great cover for many under performing GC hopefuls.

  7. Regularity definitely is a concern for Porte!

    This year’s field looks the most open of all the grand tours. A Movistar rider for the win if they can get their act together.

    Brilliant preview as ever Inrng.

    • You forget that the Movistar team boss is Senor Unzue who in recent years has found every possible way to lose. At the recent Tour his new tactic was to front load the team with talent. The best he could manage was 7th place. Even without Sky he’d only have been 5th. This was both a serious under performance an indictment, once more, of the team in grand tours under Unzue’s “leadership”. Movistar have seriously bad tactics and unless it happens that one of their guys is in stellar form (who? Quintana? seriously?) how do they actually win? If Yates turns up anything like in his Giro condition, and races smarter, he should walk this.

      • So how many World Tour teams did you mange last years and what are your palmares in it? Oh wait, you win a few Cycling manger games on your basement couch, which makes you an expert in criticizing real team managers, right, I forgot.

          • Errr not really. Just because Kim Jong is clearly not his real name doesn’t mean he’s anonymous. We can attribute a string of comments to the same person still, unlike the 1000 anonymous on here. Plus his comment on Larry was spot on, I read the comment on Unzue and expected Larry to be right there underneath. He wasn’t, but might as well have been.

          • If brain cells were dollar bills you wouldn’t make change. The point wasn’t the anonymity but the futility of your empty rhetoric. Note: you didn’t refute the point. You played the man.

            Back of the net.

      • Totally agree about Unzue – a simple way to evaluate his performance as team manager was how Landa performed in 2017 vs 2018. Landa finished BETTER when riding as a domestique! Obviously this is a very simple analysis but still it shows that Unzue might not get the most from his riders.

        • Have to join the choir in critizing Unzues leadership qualities! If Movistar would try just once to have an entire team riding for 1 captain?

          They always have 2 or 3 leaders, and guys going in breaks chasing stage wins, and all of them going for the team competition as well! They use an enourmous amount of energy on a lot of side stuff! Where Sky on the other hand always ride 100% for Froome (or whoever is leading the team). It makes a huge difference, especially in the third week when grand tours are decided! They always have domestiques who are still fresh…

          • I agree.
            And the quality of an analysis is not dependent on who gives it.
            Movistar’s tactics have been poor for years: my career as a ballerina has no bearing on that.

        • Well duh, he was better in 2017 because he could just sneak off into a break and get back minutes, with no one behind wanting to chase fearing to expose themselves to Sky.

          2018 was a honest showing of what he can achieve, which is not 1/2 of what people want it to be because frankly the guy just is not that talented.

    • With respect, I think consistency might be a better term than regularity? Especially given the nature of Porte’s current sickie.

      By the way, re the anonymous naming, obviously if you can’t think of a handle, fine. But it would be good if you could all agree to add a number or something, because it would be interesting to know which of you was saying what.

      Really excited about the Vuelta in my household! Interesting and open race.
      pS I wonder what the appearance fees in the TDG were to secure that line up?

  8. There is no one in the race you’d put your house on. The grand tour winners of the past have questions marks (poor form for Quintana and fitness for Nibali) and the rest have either never been able to do it before (Porte) or never been able to do it yet (Yates, Lopez, Uran, etc.).

    The nearest thing to a decent bet is probably Simon Yates. But in week three you will be shaking if you back him!

  9. Would it be too dramatic to say Quintana is in last chance saloon as a team leader? If he flops here will Movistar still continue to back him so much?

    • He’s won two the Giro and Vuelta and been on the podium of the Tour de France three times, he’s still going to be a team leader and a podium contender I think, but if he misses here then for sure his contract value’s going to be falling.

  10. My pick: it will be either Lopez or Kruijswijk – got a ‘feeling’ about the later who in this years TDF appeard approach the level from the 2016 Giro.

  11. Looking forward to this very much. Should be a cracking race with no obvious big hitter, which means a recipe for a great race. Pity some can’t see the wood for the trees!

  12. Genuinely looking forward to the Vuelta this year, I haven’t got a clue who’s going to win. Loving the chat about there being ‘no big names’ in the race this year when you’ve got the guy with the most complete palmares of his generation in the race, another with the best record in the Ardennes since practically Merckx (and who won the race in a previous lifetime) and the guy who won the race only two years ago. Not to mention two of the best classics riders of the time. I can’t wait.

    • So youre saying that Froome and Dumoulin wouldn’t be 1 and 2 just by turning up then and that the guys here are real challengers, even though in the last two years no one here has been better than them in a grand tour?

      That guy with the “most complete palmares” is a great rider but his grand tours have been won on the cheap. He’s never beaten the best head to head. He’s a canny lad who knows how to avoid the best. As to Valverde, he’s a blood doper who has been let off lightly by authorities and fans alike. How anyone can enjoy his performances with a clear conscience is beyond me.

    • +1 Richard S!

      This comments section seems really odd in terms of the number of moans about a poor field. With the exception of Dumoulin and Froome, this is a loaded field but with no clear favourite – perfect! So many negative comments about Nibali, Porte and Quintana in particular. Nibali looked great in the Tour before his crash so might yet “do a Horner” (perhaps an unfortunate comparison but he was injured for much of the season before his win) and be particularly strong as the race progresses. Porte is in a similar position to Thomas in the Tour, but with a better GC pedigree already. Quintana is in a very similar position to the 2016 Vuelta, where he was excellent following a disappointing Tour.

      That’s not to mention the dominant rider from much of the Giro as well as a deep list of contenders who could feasibly win (in particular Lopez, Pinot and A Yates) and an interesting Sky team.

      • People can have different views, some will see Froome and Dumoulin aren’t there and think it looks lite, others that Nibali, Quintana et al are there and think it looks strong. For me the best thing is it looks open for now, there’s no obvious pick ahead of the race. We’ll know more after the first week and Stage 9’s finish at the La Covatilla ski station.

      • Just to emphasise the strength in depth, I’d forgotten about both Martin and Kruijswijk (both strong in the Tour and unlikely to be as hindered by a dominant Sky train), as well as Aru looking for form. Brilliant!

      • You know that Thomas has won the Tour right? The best Porte has done is finish minutes down once. Mostly he just doesn’t finish. But I see below you’re praising Dan Martin, the epitome of the try hard, win nothing grand tour approach.

        So I guess you just think taking part is an achievement.

  13. This promises to be a very exciting, wide open grand tour, which the TdF hasn’t been for years. At the Tour I end up watching for the occasional surprise stage winner, and following Sagan’s adventures, which tend to seem to be a “one-against-all” battle. This Vuelta promises to be exciting for both stage hunters, GC contenders, GC pretenders, and up-and-comers. I kind of wonder why those denigrating the stature or potential of this race even bother to pay attention.

    • For some, watching their fav’s win is all that matters. Never mind that CF and TD couldn’t possibly win this race, this season.
      The same people berate anyone who questions the team who have won 6 of the last 7 tdfs with 3 different riders – also of the same nationality.
      Despite the many questions that hang over that team.
      They’re simply the other side of the coin from those who are ‘certain’ that Sky are cheating and refuse to see the many things that Sky have got right.
      Any critique of Sky, they claim, is bitterness/being French.
      In actuality, I think a lot of the dislike shown towards Sky is down to boredom with their – highly successful – tactics rather than opinions on cheating. Hence, Sky were widely cheered at the Giro.
      For the neutral, an open race is something to be cherished.

  14. I have a small bet on Tao Geoghegan Hart.
    Thomas of Ghent to win two stages.
    Thomas not from Gwent to get no further than Rummers in the tour of Britain.
    (Rummers is a pub opposite Cardiff Castle.)

  15. A question probably not related to the post. CN is claiming that Tony Martin is going to Lottle-Jumbo out of nowhere. Is this true or just non-existing CN editors failing their jobs again?

Comments are closed.