The battle for the red jersey commences this weekend as the streets of Spain play host to 22 teams competing in the last of this year’s Grand Tours. We’ve already had a look at the route of this year’s Vuelta, so now let’s take a closer look at the riders who are in main contention for the overall GC.
Froome worked his little synthetic socks off for Bradley Wiggins during the TdF and there is no doubt that the Sky rider could have won the French Grand Tour if team tactics weren’t holding him back. An impressive Vuelta last year saw the Kenyan born British rider finish second just 13 seconds behind Spanish rider Cobo. A climber who can TT is a dangerous combination in other Grand Tours, but for the Vuelta, it seems to be the pure climbers who fair best. With only one ITT during the Vuelta, Froome’s time trial skills won’t really be called on. Even so, Froome is a definite threat to other GC contenders and the other teams will be keeping a close eye on him. With a strong team around him, the Sky rider is a definite top step podium contender.
Bertie makes his return to the main stage after receiving a ban when he tested positive for traces of clenbuterol. Whether he was guilty or not, the Saxo Bank rider needs to put all that behind him and concentrate on the matter at hand, however, this may be easier said than done. Contador hasn’t raced in a Grand Tour since his disappointing performance at the 2011 Tour de France. A warm up ride at the Eneco shows he does still have it but there’s no doubt that he will be feeling the pressure. Despite this, there’s no doubt that his climbing ability will still be second to none. We’re looking forward to Bertie and Froome battle it out in the mountains as the gradient gets steeper.
Expect some aggressive riding during the first week from the Spanish rider. Joaquim will be looking to ride a similar race to his Giro performance where time bonuses were the order of most days. A second place at the Giro and a win at this year’s La Fleche Wallonne puts the Katusha rider in good stead for a podium place. Compared to the aforementioned, Rodriguez is well rested having not taken part in the Tour, however has enough competition miles in his legs to make a real impact on this year’s Vuelta. In front of a home crowd, the man they call little cigar will not want to disappoint those cheering him on.
Jurgen van den Broeck
Similar to Froome, Jurgen van den Broeck may have an issue with burning out during this year’s Vuelta. The Belgium rider finished fourth at this year’s Tour and would be hoping for a top 5 finish at the Vuelta, however Lotto Belisol may have other plans, possibly looking to concentrate on stage wins like they did at the other Grand Tours. The mountain top finishes should not trouble the 29 year old, however the calibre of climbers all competing for the top spot may mean the Lotto rider is overlooked by many, but on the day Jurgen can climb like the best of them.
Euskaltel have entrusted Igor Anton with the team’s GC responsibilities. A promising run of results a couple of years ago seem to have dried up recently as the Basque rider has failed to finish in the top 15 during the last several Grand Tours. The team time trial and ITT will definitely dent his ambitions of a podium finish, however with several stages taking place in and around the Basque region, the local lad will know some of the climbs like the back of his hand. An outside chance of finishing on the top step of the podium, however this is the Vuelta, anything could happen!