Robbie McEwen has backed Giro d'Italia winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) to perform well at the Vuelta a España and challenge in the general classification.
The Australian former star sprinter turned cycling commentator explained that due to the intensity of the recent Tour de France, he cannot envisage riders who rode the Tour challenging for the General Classification (GC) in the Vuelta.
He said, “I really think he [Hindley] can deliver. I think the combination this year in terms of riding Grand Tours is really achievable if it's the Giro d'Italia followed by the Vuelta, Giro then Tour de France or Tour then Vuelta not so much.”
McEwen added, “If you look at the way the Giro was raced every day was just incredibly aggressive, then the Tour was that times two, it was just nuts. Anybody who finished the Tour de France and then hopes to ride GC at the Vuelta, good luck to them!”
Along with Hindley’s freshness, McEwen explained that he believes the best case scenario for the Bora-Hansgrohe rider would be to remain in contention and then take the red jersey later on in the race.
McEwen said, “I don’t think they [Bora-Hansgrohe] are going to try and dominate and isolate anyone early on in this Vuelta. It’s just going to be a really hard race, with seven summit finishes and for any team the less days you need to ride on the front and control the race the better.
“The best recipe for Jai will probably be similar to the one at the Giro. Take the jersey really late and then just defend it for a day. I think it would be foolish to try and blow up a team like Ineos and flush out their leader early on, you could just end up seeing yourself undone.”
As well as Hindley, the start list is full of potential winners including Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and McEwen sees the Ineos lineup as potentially springing a surprise.
He said, “On paper they [Ineos Grenadiers] have got a really strong team. You don’t quite know which one’s going to end up as the leader,” he added , “you would expect Carapaz but maybe it could be Carlos Rodriguez or maybe Geoghegan Hart if he can get back to some winning form.”
When Ineos Grenadiers announced their squad for the Spanish Grand Tour, hidden beneath the squad list was the news that this will be the last Grand Tour Richard Carapaz rides in their colours. Carapaz has recently been linked with a move away from the team with multiple suitors potentially lining up to take him.
McEwen sees a return to Movistar as being a good fit for the Ecuadorian.
He said: “I think heading back to Movistar would be a likely move, as they really need a rider like him. Valverde is retiring and Enric Mas is a man who is good for fifth, sixth or seventh and I think that’s about his limit. Movistar really needs someone like Carapaz back in their team.”
Meanwhile Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl are taking Remco Evenepoel to the Vuelta with high hopes for a potential podium finish. Along with the Belgian, Julian Alaphilippe will race his first Grand Tour of the season after missing out on the Tour de France through injury.
Alaphilippe will look to win a third successive road title at the World Championships this September and McEwen believes the Vuelta will be key preparation for the Frenchman ahead of the final months of the season.
McEwen said: “I think he will finish the Vuelta and it’s going to be important for him, not just for the Worlds but also going into next season. He’s missed so much and I’m a believer that if you want to stay at a really high level, you definitely need at least one Grand Tour in your legs per season.
“I reckon you need at least one a year in order to keep your engine at that level. Some guys can cope with two and I think he [Alaphilippe] really needs this. I think it’s going to be perfect preparation for the Worlds and going into the off-season ready to come into 2023 firing on all cylinders again.
“I think Alaphilippe is going to be really good, I can see him winning at least a stage if not more.”
Robbie McEwen is a Eurosport GCN cycling expert.
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