Vuelta a España Preview

A look at the overall contenders for the Vuelta and it’s a step into the unknown with little to go on when it comes to form, fatigue and motivation. It all makes it more open, there’s a lot to look forward to and the first week of racing should tell us plenty.

Route summary: the winner has to excel on the climbs but with 54.2km of time trials, part team time trial, part solo a lightweight climber on a weak team can be three minutes down on rivals and that’s a lot of ground to make up, even with the frequent summit finishes. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for stage wins, and a handful of climbs have 3-2-1 second time bonuses. All the stage profiles re a click away at

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is back but how is his back? He’s won the last three editions but quit the Tour de France with injuries. A case of reculer pour mieux sauter given Jonas Vingegaard was in yellow and had enough mountain support so Jumbo-Visma could release Roglič to recover and aim for bigger goals like the Vuelta? Or was the late announcement of his selection a tentative pick? Roglič is a stage-racing machine and can do it all, except at the Tour de France which weighs on the mind but look at his record over time and there’s more reassurance, he is particularly well suited to the Vuelta with the shorter climbs, the time bonus sprints and the flat time trial. Sepp Kuss can climb with the best but the time trial makes any overall ambitions harder but they should thrive in the Utrecht team time trial.

Now in his fourth season as a pro Remco Evenepoel starts his second grand tour. Expectations vary, a sizeable Belgian media contingent has signed up and a nation awaits. Yet there’s no pressure, if can finish with a good GC result, show well on some stages with perhaps a win and above all make it to Madrid, then he’s well on track. But we also know he’ll like the time trial, he climbs well, has improved his descending and his signature move is to just attack and ride away from the field solo. Yet the course with all its summit finishes doesn’t offer too many places for this and he could be prone to an off day or a wobble on a climb. Quick-Step’s team looks able and arguably superior to their Tour team with able climbing support for Evenepoel. Julian Alaphilippe could conceivably win the Vuelta, just not this year where we can expect more of what he did in the Tour de l’Ain, making moves and testing himself as the form builds. Ilan Van Wilder is a promising rider to watch too.

Can Jai Hindley pick up where he left off? He finally cracked Richard Carapaz on the last mountain stage of the Giro to take the overall win. That was a surprise result but he did it through steady riding all race, that kind of form can get him on the podium again. The flat time trial will make things harder for him and it’s also a penalty for Sergio Higuita whose form for the uphill finishes looks very good but piecing together a three week grand tour win is another matter. Wilco Kelderman will like the time trial stage but as ever he’s consistent rather than sparkling, he’s yet to win a road stage in his decade-long career.

Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) has tilted at the Giro many times but only has one grand tour win and that’s the 2018 Vuelta. He’s back again and a genuine contender with some wins since resuming racing after his Giro DNF. But as ever he can shine in the build-up to a grand tour, the harder part is riding at a high level across the three weeks of a grand tour. He’s surprisingly handy in a TT but often when there’s a climb or corners, the Vuelta’s course is not for him. With the team scrabbling for UCI points they might try to insist he rides steady and doesn’t go into the red too often, finishing fourth overall would be a lot better than leading the race and collapsing. But if he’s at his best he can win.

Ineos, wait for it, bring a strong team. This makes picking their best rider for a preview hard. Richard Carapaz is often consistent and while he’s likely to be moving teams over the winter, seems unlikely to coast. Pavel Sivakov looked strong on his way to victory in the Vuelta a Burgos, and the triumph ought to help him get more of a claim on leadership. Meanwhile Tao Geoghegan Hart was good in Burgos too and seems suited to longer stage races although this Vuelta’s hardest stages come midway and the final week isn’t furious. 21 year old Carlos Rodriguez starts his first Vuelta and what role will he have, presumably a support role and maybe take aim at a stage win if possible.

Second last year, can Enric Mas do more? Arguably he doesn’t need to improve on this, the imperative is to finish the Vuelta, and preferably as high up on GC as possible as Movistar need the UCI points and a safe and steady ride is more rewarding this time than anything risky. The opening TTT won’t help. Alejandro Valverde rides his farewell race but it’s hard to see him repeating his 2009 win, it’s remarkable he’s still active at the age of 42 but his performances, and win rate, have been on the slide in recent seasons.

João Almeida needs to win the Vuelta or Giro one day because Tadej Pogačar looks set to reign as the UAE’s team’s Tour de France leader. A stage winner in Burgos, he won after his now regular pattern of hanging back on a climb but never quite being dropped. He’s very punchy on shorter climbs, it’s the long ones that have proved harder for him but he’s improved a lot here. Teenager Juan Ayuso rides his first grand tour and so far he looks like he can climb and time trial with the best, now to see he stays for three weeks. Brandon McNulty is worth watching too, able in the time trials and a good climber but will he be working for Almeida from the start?

Astana’s leader is Miguel Angel Lopez who returns to the race after quitting the Giro early and leaving the Vuelta in huff last year. The Colombian can ride away from the field on a summit finish and has been on the podium in the Vuelta and Giro but the top step? To finish first, first finish because he hasn’t completed a grand tour since the 2020 Tour de France. Vincenzo Nibali rides his last Vuelta and had a noble Giro with fourth place but how to improve on that, he’s more steady than spectacular with age.

EF Education have an interesting team with Hugh Carthy, Rigoberto Uran and Esteban Chaves but how to win? Carthy and Uran are steady riders who can diesel their way to a solid top-10 finish and if both can, then think of the precious UCI points. Chaves is 32 now and also turning into a bit of a diesel as well.

Mikel Landa is the leader for Bahrain. Mercurial as ever, he’s likely to take a pasting in the time trial but could pop up for a stage win and ride high on GC. Gino Mäder is more consistent and hauled himself into fifth place in last year’s Vuelta.

Among the others, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is stage-hunting and would sign today with both hands for a repeat of 2018 where he took two stage wins. Ben O’Connor returns after his Tour de France disappointment. His Ag2r Citroën team will ship time in the opening stage and O’Connor’s form is unknown but he can climb with the best on a good day, it’s just hard to see how to win overall. Thymen Arensman (DSM) is only 22 and now starts his third Vuelta and fourth grand tour, he’s a grand tour prospect and took his first career win with the time trial stage at the Tour de Pologne and a top-10 would be a result. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert keep beating expectations but Domenico Pozzovivo and Jan Hirt can aim for a top-10 and maybe a stage on the way. Israel-PremierTech are hunting points but it’s a tough ask as Michael Woods will lose out in the time trial, he’ll need his best form to win stages and ride high on GC while Chris Froome showed form in the Tour make the breakaways but more is a big ask for the 37 year old. Last but not least Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) has a big engine and returns with more experience, watch for him on the mountain stages.

Primož Roglič
Richard Carapaz, João Almeida
Simon Yates, Remco Evenepoel
Hindley, Lopez, Sivakov, Mas, TGH

32 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Preview”

  1. You are one of the few i have seen put simon yates so high. It has surprised me because how lowly rated many have him as he is past winner who got 3rd in a GT last year. Plus he’s been winning some good races recently. Of course 50% of the time he falls apart but he does well a reasonable number of times.
    Now that you remind me Lopez was good for most of last years race i will mentally put him a bit higher.
    But i want Jay Vine to win. Why because many years ago he visited town and wanted to take a strava segment. At the time he was riding the Aussie MTB scene and we set off on a windy day on the loop and I blew him off my wheel on the downwind section (of course it was to windy to take a starva segment in any case). Something that could no longer happen even if Vine had a broken leg these days. Being able to boast i blew away a GT winner means Jay Vine winning beats all other outcomes IMO.

    • Sure and I really like the guy, but he won’t even win a stage. He’ll come close, oh so close, but won’t be able to do it. He’ll soon hang out with his goats for good, and I’ll miss him.

  2. Anyone know why Jack Haig was left out by Bahrain, he did get a podium last year in similar circumstances following the tour. Appears a llittle unusual unless there is injury

  3. Mikel Landa is the land of lost opportunity. He had such a promising career at one point and just hasn’t managed to fulfil that since leaving Movistar.

    I feel mean saying this, but Jai Hindley’s success in the Giro has always felt very light-weight. I think if there was a Roglic or some of TdF contender in their pomp competing with him then it would add much more gravitas to his win. There’s always a hierarchy with the GT’s over which is the best/toughest/biggest. But in the last couple of editions the Giro has very much looked third place. Although I prefer the Giro to Vuelta. I think this is largely because I prefer the scenery and late spring weather of Italy.

    I can’t really look beyond Roglic, though he does have a knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Vuelta is, somehow, his natural habitat.

    • Roglič has often faded late in a grand tour but that’s typically come after a very long spell of racing, when he cracked in the Giro he’d had a crash but had also been winning many races before with hardly a rest, when he was sacked by Pogačar in 2020 it was the same. This year he seems more rested, at least when measured by race days. But all those pre-race wins made him an easier pick before, you could see the momentum; now there’s no guide.

      • It does seem quite a wide open race. But then Vuelta and Giro always seem to be a little bit more so due to the focus of teams on the TdF.

        You know all the teams are turning up with their A game and no longer are they using a race for training because that is THE race to win. The Vuelta (and to some extent Giro) are very much more about who has the space in their stomachs for seconds and whether their trousers can take it.

        Of course some diners haven’t even had firsts when they rock up at the table. It makes it interesting for sure.

    • For sure winning the giro is not the same as a stacked TDF but Jai Hindleys climb on Passo Fedaia to take the giro lead was pretty much as good as anybody this year. He also seems to go best in the 3rd week probably by not spending and matches before and running into form.
      That’s said this years vuelta seems to have a lighter 3rd week and a few to many TT. Hindley is certainly not consistent winner as outside of 2 Giro’s he has fairly modest results for a GT winner.

  4. I’m looking forward to seeing how Rodriguez and Ayuso get on. There’s a lot of expectation/desperation for a Spanish GT star so it’ll be interesting to see how they go. Hopefully people will remember it’s their first 3week race!

  5. Will it be The Giro part 2, or if Roglic comes with the same form as his Jumbo team mates at TdF then, will it be “Roglic plus others”? The highlight might well be Roglic versus Remco in the TT – let’s hope both are at 100% for that.

  6. The route seems weird. Lacklustre third week, copycat summit finish stages… I hope I”ll be proven an ignorant, which is plausible.

    While TTT is interesting and almost original these days, lot of riders are already 30-90 seconds down, that’s harsh. On the other hand, J-V probably manages their time and resources spectacularly, kudos to them.

  7. With Lefevere describing Jumbo-Visma as coming “from another planet” and Quintana’s problem, I hope the Vuelta is not going to turn into TdF’s “hangover”.

  8. Quite a big shout out by some commentators for Remco on this parcours. If he does want to win there should be some fireworks early to give him a buffer on Hindley/Yates ahead of Sierra Nevada. Hard to see him dropping Roglic though if the Slovene is in shape

    • Seeing him in the TTT last night, he looked very sharp, lean so we’ll see for the mountains. Consistency is the test for him too, how he fares across three weeks but he’ll like the TT stage, that can be a buffer moment too.

      • It’s going to be interesting to see if remco can give us some more pointers towards whether he can be a 3 week gt guy. If he does, it gives Don Patrick a problem as he will have to change the teams long held style. If he doesn’t there’s nothing wrong in being a hilly classics/one week guy and that would fit in with the steppers existing ethos a lot better.

        • It would. But it would also mean that QS’s two star riders (him and Alaphilippe) target exactly the same races in largely the same style. Then something would have to give, which would no doubt be Alaphilippe’s presumably large salary.

    • It would be great to see Evenepoel go well in La Vuelta. I remember him saying a couple of years ago that he absolutely considers his attributes to be that of a GC rider – I hope he can fulfil that ambition.

  9. So, are Jumbo trolling the peloton with the “rotating leader’s jersey”? I thought giving it to Gesink on stage 1 was a really nice gesture, but these past couple of days have just made me laugh. I can’t recall a team ever doing this in a race. Maybe they just want to spread the media responsibilities and interviews around to different riders? On another note, was there any television coverage anywhere of the Michael Woods crash? It’s sad to see him exit so early as he would have been in the mix for at least a stage win. Hopefully it’s not anything too serious. Really bad news for Israel in any case.

  10. Not that it is bound to happen again, but Jumbo’s 4 days in red make me wonder: when is the last time (any?) that a team held a leader’s jersey for an entire grand tour?

  11. stage 6 – The King is dead! Hail to the King! Or, is it a bit early? Surprising how quick Jumbo V melted away in the mist – nearest was Kuss who came in a minute behind Roglic.

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