Pro predictions: who will win the Vuelta?

We’ve had our say, you may have your own opinion and so do the bookies – who’s going to win this year’s Vuelta?

It’s one of the most open for years, and we thought we’d open up the forum to the riders and team managers out in Spain to see who’s got the best predictive powers in the peloton.

The route is highly mountainous, with six mountain top finishes, four of which come in the race’s second week. There will be one 47km individual time trial, and six flatter stages for the sprinters.

It should suit the mountain specialists, but last year’s the individual time trial ruined the GC challenge of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), and it could pose problems for him and the spindly climbers this year too.

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
“Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha. I know he’s really been targeting this race: he can’t time-trial to save his life, the organisers have probably helped him a bit by only putting in one. He’ll probably lose three minutes there, he’s a real pure climber with fantastic acceleration and climbs like the Angliru suit him. He lost it last year through the TT so I think he’ll have made gains there.”

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
It’s a tougher Vuelta than last year, there’s a big spread of favourites. Menchov, Rodriguez, Scarponi… one name is difficult,

however… Igor Anton is my pick.

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek)
“I think Denis Menchov could be good for it. The time trial will suit him. It could be his race.”

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)
“Vincenzo Nibali. Why? Because I’m not going as well as I hoped!” [said in joking way]

Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo)
“Igor Anton. The way he rode last year, I think he would have won if he didn’t have to pull out. He’s definitely going to be up there. As a surprise package, I’d like to see Marcel Kittel get up there in bunch sprints: he’s young, determined and strong as.”

Dan Martin (Garmin-Cérvelo)
“It’s tough – I haven’t really seen a start list yet. I think Nibali’s got to be the favourite. He’s the defending champion and he was really strong in Poland.”

Chris Froome (Team Sky)
“My only answer can be Brad – after doing TTT training with him today and riding the whole team off his wheel. He’s the strongest I’ve ever ridden with him, I haven’t seen him in this kind of condition before.”

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
CW: Really?
SC: Of course [Pause…]
Haha. No, I think Nibali is in great shape at the moment and he’ll want to defend his title. But there are so many riders with all those who fell in the Tour. There are at least fifteen to twenty GC riders vying for the title.

Tom Booonen (Quick Step)
Hahah. I have no idea. I don’t even know who’s starting. I don’t have a clue.

Stuart O’Grady (Leopard-Trek)
“Overall it’s one of the most open Vuelta’s we’ve  had for a long time – without Contador or the Schlecks. I think one of Nibali or Scarponi. It’s so mountainous. Every page of the course book I turn to, I’m cringing. If I had to pick one, it would be Nibali.”

Bingen Fernandez (Garmin-Cervélo director sportif)
“On one side, there’s Wiggins, with that time-trial. Then, on the other side, Vandenbroeck, Igor Anton… This Vuelta is going to be a combination of a long TT and many hard mountain stages. Because the good time triallists can lose four minutes… I’d say Wiggins.”

Valerio Piva (HTC-Highroad directeur sportif)
“I think it’s more between Spanish riders. Joaquim Rodriguez because there’s not a lot of time-trialling, so he can make gains in the mountains.”

John Lelangue (BMC director sportif)
“I think it’ll be Vincenzo Nibali. He’s really serious about this race and he showed what he can do last year.”

Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)
“Igor Anton”

Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
“Vincenzo Nibali”

Janez Brajkovic (Radioshack)
“Nibali or Menchov, because of the time-trial.”

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Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team)
I would say Rodriguez, off the top of my head. [pause] Actually maybe not with the time trial – I’ll say Santombrogio.

Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek)
“Denis Menchov, It’s the only Grand Tour he’s been focusing on, he’s won it twice before and he can time-trial.”

Related links
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Who will win?