Some big riders are missing from this year’s La Vuelta, which invites the prospect for an unusually compelling list of favourites to win the maillot rojo.
Primož Roglič is our favourite
Roglič skipped Le Tour so arrives at La Vuelta with fresh legs. Earlier this year, he was pleased with one very significant podium finish – the rising star of Jumbo-Visma finished third in the Giro. For a couple of years, I’ve been singing his praises but more to the point Roglič seems to be the product of a team playing the long game – a la Sir David Brailsford.
Roglič has a strong team surrounding him, including the veteran Robert Gesink who placed 4th in Le Tour de France in 2010 and 6th just four years ago. Steven Kruijswijk is also racing and is the kind of alternative race leader who wouldn’t look out of place in Team Ineos – but maybe not as fresh as Roglič given his stellar performance to finish 3rd, and on the podium, in 2019’s Tour de France.
Tadej Pogačar will win something
The UAE-Team Emirates rider will celebrate his 21st birthday less than a week after La Vuelta finishes. Pogačar may be young but the rapidly-growing list of jerseys proves that the Slovenian rider should be taken very seriously. Pogačar likes to win races.
This year alone, he’s won the young rider classification for the Basque, Slovenian, Algarve and Californian tours. Oh, and he came first overall in those last two tours. He’s won his National Road Championships for his second successive year. If you want to place an outside bet, bet on Pogačar.
Miguel Ángel López is a dark horse
Richard Carapaz would have been my second favourite to win, given his accomplishments and relaxed build-up to La Vuelta, and it’s disappointing he’s out with such short notice. This puts one less big-hitter in front of Miguel Ángel López who sounds confident about improving on last year’s podium position.
Team Astana will be happy to have sorted out the question mark over Fuglsang’s contract – the Danish rider will stay until 2021. Miguel Ángel López will be able to ride knowing he’s got the full support of a super-domestique capable of winning the Tour of Andalucia, Criterium Dauphine, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Quintana and Valverde’s swan song?
The terrible twins are a menacing presence in any grand tour and together, they’re capable of upsetting the apple cart. Movistar regularly promise to be Team Ineos’ slayers and Quintana showed a little flash of what may be in store when he obliterated the field in stage 18 of Le Tour this year.
Valverde has come first overall in his national Road Race as well as Route d’Occitanie, so he may well be saving his fireworks for one last hurrah – by helping Movistar push Quintana to a podium finish. This makes Quintana a reasonable proposition with the bookies but, honestly, Quintana somehow makes any race compelling just by being there.