Who will win?
Vincenzo Nibali, Astana
All of the riders who competed at the Tour de France are likely to be tired for the Vuelta a Espana, but Vincenzo Nibali, who did not have to suffer the stress of defending a podium place in the mountains and has had a relatively quiet season, could be the freshest of the big names. With such a strong team surrounding him, including Giro podiumers Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa, Nibali could be the man to beat.
Nairo Quintana, Movistar
The nine summit finishes and mountainous nature of the route suits him more than anyone else, and if Nairo Quintana can climb as he did in the Alps at the Tour, he’ll be the man to beat. But that’s a big ‘if’ for a rider who has so far in his career only peaked for one Grand Tour per season, and we may even see the more experienced Alejandro Valverde assume leadership at Movistar.
Chris Froome, Sky
Having confirmed his status as the best Grand Tour rider in the peloton with overall victory at the Tour de France, Chris Froome now seeks to pull off the Tour/Vuelta double. But his whole 2015 has been based around winning the yellow jersey in Paris, and his participation in the Vuelta feels more like a beginning of preparations to defend his title next year than a committed attempt to win the Spanish race.
Joaquin Rodriguez, Katusha
As one of the few major contenders to have raced since the end of the Tour (fifth place at San Sebastian), Rodriguez can be confident than the others about his shape going into La Vuelta. He’ll enjoy all the summit finishes – especially the steep ones – and typically performs well in this race, but has throughout his career fallen short of the level required to win a Grand Tour.
Tejay van Garderen, BMC
Prior to abandoning the Tour with sickness, Tejay van Garderen was in the form of his life, lying third overall having finished second overall at the Dauphine the month before. It will be a big ask for him to regain such form for the Vuelta, however, and the relentless mountain top finishes are likely to put him into some serious difficulty.
Rafal Majka, Tinkoff-Saxo
Having shown such potential with stage wins at both this and last year’s Tours, not to forget his top ten finishes at the previous Giros d’Italia, it feels like the time has come for Rafal Majka to sustain a serious bid for a Grand Tour podium finish. Having been named as Tinkoff-Saxo’s leader, this year’s Vuelta could be his breakthrough ride, although he’ll struggle to match the other, more accomplished GC riders also competing.
Ones to watch
Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo
With the World Championships in his sights, Peter Sagan returns to the race he took by storm in 2011 with four stage wins. Plenty of opportunities to add to that total await in the first week, which features uphill finishes not too difficult to discount him, and he’ll be especially eager to add at least one having again missed out at the Tour.
Nacer Bouhanni, Cofidis
Just when Nacer Bouhanni finally had the chance to ride the Tour as his team’s outright leader, things turned sour as the Frenchman was forced to abandon following a crash. Since then, however, he’s got back on his bike and has won stages at the Tour de l’Ain as well as the Circuito de Getxo classic, and will be hopeful of repeating his success at the Vuelta last year, where he won two stages.
John Degenkolb, Giant-Alpecin
Having won four stages and the points classification last year, as well as five stages in 2012, John Degenkolb will be hopeful of again dominating the sprint finishes at the Vuelta. Just like last year, Bouhanni looks like his closest competitor for the flat finishes, and could provide some thrilling battles in between all the mountain stages.