By Jonny Long
The Vuelta a España will round out the deluge of Grand Tour racing we've had squeezed into the last quarter of 2020, and by the time it's over I'm not sure if we'll be able to go back to waiting weeks in between each of the three-week stage races.
The fact the Vuelta overlaps with the end of the Giro d'Italia hasn't meant the start list suffers in quality either, with the likes of Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Richard Carapaz and Thibaut Pinot all signing up for an 18-stage jaunt around northern Spain.
But who will come out on top after numerous uphill duels is currently unclear. Who could have predicted that Tadej Pogačar would have won the Tour? Or that Geraint Thomas, Simon Yates or Steven Kruijswijk wouldn't be riding away from the Giro with the maglia rosa?
In such unprecedented times, it's best to walk into the warm embrace of the benevolent bookmakers who can give you precise numerical likelihoods of what will happen in sporting events before they've even taken place.
The defending champion, Primož Roglič, is the favourite to take the win at 6/4. The question mark over how he'll rebound from his Tour de France disappointment may be unfounded, considering how the Slovenian not only rode at the pointy end of the World Championships a week after Paris, but then won his first Monument at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Without his younger compatriot Tadej Pogačar present in Spain, Roglič should have no problem wrapping up the overall victory - right?
Should Roglič falter, Jumbo-Visma once again bring a formidable back-up option to the race in the form of Tom Dumoulin. Sure, the Dutchman took himself out of GC contention at the Tour to leave the team leadership role clear for Roglič, but one thing we did see in France was Dumoulin regain his Grand Tour racing legs as the three weeks progressed. He's 4/1 to add another Grand Tour title to his 2017 Giro d'Italia victory.
Richard Carapaz is up next and valued at 13/2 to also add a Vuelta win to his 'never ending trophy' from the Italian Grand Tour. The Ineos man was originally expected to defend his Giro title but Ineos reshuffled their cards, sending him to the Tour in support of Egan Bernal, where he took a while to find his legs but then came good in the final week, finishing second on two stages and also finishing runner-up in the king of the mountains classification. He'll be hoping to cement his position as a leader at his new team with victory at the Vuelta.
Thibaut Pinot once again had a Tour de France to forget and will line-up for his fourth-ever Vuelta with a point to prove. Did he have the legs to win his home Grand Tour before injury struck when he crashed on the opening stage? Three weeks of climbing in Spain should give us the answer as to whether the French will once again place their Tour hopes in Pinot next year. He's 10/1 to claim the overall.
The favourite homegrown rider to take the red jersey is Movistar's Enric Mas. Having transferred to the Spanish team from Deceuninck - Quick-Step at the start of the year, the 25-year-old flew under the radar as he rode to fifth place at the Tour de France, and will be hoping to be the first Movistar rider to win the Vuelta since Nairo Quintana in 2016. He's 11/1 to do so.
Aleksandr Vlasov is the sixth favourite, and the Astana man will be one of very few riders, if any, who will line-up for both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España this season, by virtue of the Grand Tours overlapping and the Russian abandoning on the second stage of the Giro with illness. Vlasov is a dark horse for the Vuelta, having won the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge and the Giro dell'Emilia this year, as well as topping the youth classification at Tirreno-Adriatico. The 24-year-old is 14/1 to take his maiden Grand Tour victory.
Alejandro Valverde was the first to admit he's not having the most vintage of seasons, but when the Vuelta a España rolls around you discount the Movistar man at your peril. Apart from a DNF at his debut Spanish Grand Tour in 2002(!) he's finished outside the top 10 on only one occasion in 2016. While Mas is clearly the future of the Spanish team, the 40-year-old is 16/1 to take a second overall title.
Next up is a rider who has his place in the top 10 of favourites thanks to his palmarès rather than his current form, but you'd be daft to argue with what Chris Froome has achieved in his career. The Brit has been a shadow of his former self since returning from serious injury, yet is 18/1 to win his eighth Grand Tour. Although, the Brit has hinted he's more likely to ride in support of team-mate Carapaz.
Two more helpers round out the list of favourites. Sepp Kuss showed what he was made of during Primož Roglič's bid for Tour glory in September and such was his strength that he's 20/1 to win the Vuelta despite having the Slovenian and Dumoulin ahead of him in the pecking order at Jumbo-Visma.
Then, last in the list, is Ineos' Ivan Sosa, the 22-year-old Colombian lining up for his second-ever Grand Tour following the 2019 Giro and is 25/1 to take a first Grand Tour victory.
Vuelta a España 2020 odds (Winner – Oddschecker)
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma - 6/4
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma - 4/1
3 . Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers - 13/2
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ - 10/1
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar - 11/1
6. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana - 14/1
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar - 16/1
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers - 18/1
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma - 20/1
10. Ivan Sosa (Col) Ineos Grenadiers - 25/1
All odds correct at time of publication
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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