Leading riders highlight each other's strengths on the eve of the Vuelta a España

Spain’s Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) is the favourite to win the Vuelta a España, starting tomorrow, says Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – but Contador sees it the other way around.

Contador has won the Spanish grand tour three times already, and after quitting the Tour de France early due to crashes, he is perhaps fresher than his rivals.

Quintana finished the Tour third overall on July 24 and returned home to rest. Chris Froome (Team Sky), after winning the Tour, raced RideLondon and in Rio de Janeiro.

“I can rest assured that this race is already in my palmarès,” Contador said. “I’m sure that [Froome and Quintana] are looking for their first Vuelta title. Froome has been on the podium I think three times before now, and he has a very strong team. And since the Tour, he has the tranquillity to rest – I’m sure he knew he’d come here from the beginning.

“For Nairo, it’s the same. Since the last day of the Tour, we’ve heard nothing about him and he’s been resting and recovering for a Vuelta. I’m sure both of them will be here in optimal condition.

“For me, I will look for a positive situation on the race, and we will see what happens – but Froome and Quintana have stronger teams than me and we will see during the race if it’s under control or not.”

Alberto Contador suffered a high speed crash during stage one of the 2016 Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson

Alberto Contador suffered a high speed crash during stage one of the 2016 Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson

Contador crashed in the first two days of the Tour de France and quit the race on stage 10. Doctors reported he suffered “multiple contusions, a hamstring injury grade two on the vastus intermedius muscle in his left thigh, an additional hamstring injury on the same leg, and bruises on the left shoulder and the deltoid right thigh.”

Quintana did not look his best in France. Some said that he could win this year after twice placing second to Chris Froome, but instead he struggled and only managed to claim third place after a tight battle with Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange).

“The goal is the podium, and winning the Vuelta would be great,” Quintana explained. “The podium would be a good reward for all the work that has been done. And if nothing, I’d have the podium in the Tour and in the Vuelta in the same year.

“Contador looks very well, with the time trials. He also comes rested in a way after the Tour abandon, has recovered and trained at altitude. I think he is the big favourite.”

The Vuelta starts on Saturday with a flat 27.8-kilometre team time trial that weaves around the Miño River.