Vuelta a España 2022: Five longshots with an outside chance of winning
While not the favourites at the Spanish Grand Tour, these riders could shock a few across the three-week race
The Vuelta a España 2022 gets underway on Friday 19 August in Utrecht, Netherlands, with all teams having announced their eight-rider squads ready to compete in the race.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is, naturally, the favourite to win, as he targets his fourth successive victory at the Spanish Grand Tour. And while he will face stiff competition from Giro d'Italia winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), the Slovenian could also be challenged from elsewhere in the peloton.
Indeed, Roglič's preparation for the race hasn't been ideal, what with his early abandonment of the Tour de France, which could potentially pave the way for an unlikely hero to stand atop the final podium in Madrid on Sunday 11 September.
Former Vuelta winners Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan), Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) are all racing, too, creating a stacked field of riders.
Regardless, the main contenders to watch could be challenged by five riders Cycling Weekly has picked out as the ones with the most potential to shock in Spain. All will lead their teams, and, should they find themselves with an opportunity, they could capitalise and take advantage of the red jersey over the 21 stages.
Thymen Arensman (DSM)
Despite only being 22-years-old, Arensman is a little bit older and a little bit wiser as he is set to compete in his third consecutive Vuelta a España this year.
While he has had little to shout about in terms of general classification (GC) at the previous two editions - finishing 41st and 61st overall, respectively - , the Dutchman has successfully finished on the podium of two stages, which most certainly would have buoyed his spirits. His most recent competitive appearance at the Tour of Poland saw him finish second overall, narrowly losing to Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) by 11 seconds.
Leading his DSM team will also improve his chances across the 21 stages, as will his time trialling ability. At the aforementioned Tour of Poland, Arensman won the individual time trial on stage six, a skill which could prove crucial in determining the outcome at this year's Vuelta. Stage ten is a 31.1km time trial from Elche to Alicante, and is an area he could target to either gain ground on the leaders, or perhaps even extend his lead of the general classification.
Indeed, Arensman also came second on the final stage time trial at the Giro d'Italia earlier this year, though he did finish 18th overall.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan)
Granted, Vincenzo Nibali is by far past his best, and a long way from the form that saw him win four Grand Tours from 2010 to 2016, including the 2010 Vuelta.
However, the 37-year-old seemingly still has the hunger and desire required of a Grand Tour victor, and his climbing industry could prove invaluable across the Spanish mountains featuring throughout the three weeks.
At this year's Giro d'Italia he even managed to finish fourth overall, and over the past month he has been preparing optimally by racing exclusively in Spain. Appearances at the Ordiziako Klasika, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, San Sebastian Klasikoa and Vuelta a Burgos have all formed part of Nibali's schedule, and while none of the performances were anything of note, he will have used his experience to decide when to push and when to save his legs ahead of the main, upcoming event.
Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious)
Strangely, Mikel Landa didn't race at the Vuelta a España between 2015 and 2021, and, when he did return last year, he withdrew on stage 17.
Certainly, the Spaniard will want to do better this year at his home race. While the home fans will be cheering on Alejandro Valverde in the swansong race of his career, it is Landa who will be hoping to steal the limelight as the most talked about Spaniard at the Grand Tour.
The 32-year-old finished third overall at the Giro d'Italia in May, showing he has the strength to compete at the head of the race, while four top ten stage finishes also reinforces his ability. With one Vuelta stage win to his name, at the 2015 race, Landa will be looking to add at least another to his palmares, as well as challenge for the overall.
Despite not being among the favourites, a strong Bahrain-Victorious squad - which includes Fred Wright, Wout Poels and Santiago Buitrago, among others - could work hard for Landa in the mountains and give him the best opportunity for success.
Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën)
Ben O'Connor has a point to prove at the Vuelta, having quit the Tour de France last month before stage ten, following crashes on both stage two and eight that he failed to recover from. His AG2R Citroën cited full focus had switched to the Spanish Grand Tour, placing pressure on the Australian to perform well.
The 26-year-old is still looking to mount a proper GC bid as well. At the 2021 Tour de France he came fourth overall, but over ten minutes behind winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
O'Connor finished third at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this season, proving he has the potential to challenge at the head of the race. He has stage wins at both the Giro and Tour, too, and leading the French squad could provide him with the confidence necessary across the three-week race.
Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux)
The final rider with an outside chance of winning the Vuelta a España is South African rider Louis Meintjes.
After finishing eighth at the Tour de France, and seventh in the mountains classification, Meintjes will lead the Intermarché squad alongside Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo, who both finished in the top ten at the Giro d'Italia.
The 30-year-old is set to ride his eighth Vuelta this year as well, and his experience might help the Belgian outfit upset the status quo during the final Grand Tour of the year. Meintjes could also challenge for stage wins, evidenced by finishing second on stage 12 of the Tour, on the summit finish up Alpe d'Huez.
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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