Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vuelta 2014: Better Than Le Tour?

Each season there are three Grand Tours at the top level of professional cycling: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España. The Tour de France gets most of the attention from the press and, consequently, the public, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best three-week race of the year. This year’s Tour was very dramatic for all the wrong reasons as crashes forced some of the sport’s biggest stars to abandon. Credit to Vincenzo Nibali for riding brilliantly to the general classification victory, but fans will always wonder what might have happened if Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Andrew Talansky had avoided injury, and what part Bradley Wiggins might have played if he had not been left off the Tour roster by his team.

The Vuelta begins on Saturday and the list of GC contenders is impressive. Chris Horner will try to repeat as champion. Froome, Contador and Talansky have healed their Tour de France wounds and will get their chances for redemption. Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal saw their Giro ambitions end during Garmin-Sharp’s disastrous team time trial on the very first day, so you can bet they are looking forward to the TTT that kicks off the Vuelta. Cadel Evans and always-the-bridesmaid Joaquim Rodriguez are getting a little old for Grand Tour podium ambitions but could be in the hunt this time. Rigoberto Uran will be in the mix too.

Former Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde was fourth in the Tour. Will he go for glory in this year’s Vuelta or just content himself in a super domestique role for teammate Nairo Quintana? Winner of the Giro back in May, Quintana has to be considered the top favorite for the Vuelta. He’s a brilliant climber and there’s plenty of work ahead in the mountains of Spain. The TTT and the two individual time trials are very short and should not be a liability for him.

So, who’s going to win? I think this one belongs to Quintana. If I’m right, the 24-year-old Colombian will join Contador (2008), Giovanni Battaglin (1981) and Eddy Merckx (1973) as the only men to win the Giro and the Vuelta in the same year.

1 comment:

  1. And then this happened: And then this happened: