The Vuelta a España 2022 gets underway in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Friday 19 August, and will make a return to Madrid on Sunday 11 September, after 21 stages of racing.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is the defending Vuelta champion, having won the race a remarkable three years in a row, from 2019 to 2021. Former winners Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will also all be lining up for the race.
There are plenty of riders to get excited about watching, though, all for different reason, and we've picked the best five you should keep your eye on across the end of August and beginning of September.
From GC contenders to breakout stars to farewell appearances, this year's edition of the Vuelta a España is set up for an explosive three weeks of racing.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
Despite the considerable success Primož Roglič has experienced at the Vuelta in recent years, he arguably still has a point to prove at this edition due to a disappointing Tour de France, which is still proving ever-elusive for the Slovenian.
Granted, Roglič is a three-time successive winner looking for his fourth victory in as many years, but victory doesn't seem as nailed on as it perhaps should for a rider with his palmarès. When considering he hasn't raced since the Tour de France, which he abandoned before stage 15, questions are certainly raised about his condition ahead of the race.
Team management decided the 32-year-old shouldn't start stage 15 at the Tour so that he could focus on recovering from the injuries he sustained on the stage five cobbles. Roglič crashed heavily and dislocated his shoulder during the race, which he had to pop back in and continue.
Consequently, he has spent the past few weeks recovering, gradually returning to the bike so as not to place too much pressure on his return.
Regardless of that, though, Roglič is undeniably still the rider to beat. He has won Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2022, and will be Jumbo-Visma's main rider everything and everyone in the team is geared towards helping. The Belgian squad are a formidable bunch, just ask Tadej Pogačar.
If he is at the race, he will be the favourite.
Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Will Jai Hindley prove a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder? Or, will he go onto achieve great success in his career as he simply refuses to stop winning? Time will only tell.
But, what is certain is that Hindley has the opportunity to achieve the Giro d'Italia/Vuelta double, something achieved by just three riders previously - Eddy Merckx in 1973, Giovanni Battaglin in 1981 and Alberto Contador in 2008.
Hindley triumphed at the Giro d'Italia in May, securing his maiden Grand Tour overall win in impressive fashion. Following his win, though, the Australian took two months off from racing, returning with a DNF at the Clásica San Sebastián. He could only manage to finish seventh overall the Vuelta a Burgos, too, calling into question whether he will be able to replicate his Giro form and topple Roglič this time around.
Hindley is still the third-favourite to win the race, behind Roglič and Remco Evenepoel, and his climbing ability could provide him an advantage in the Spanish mountains.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
The swansong Grand Tour of Valverde's illustrious career, this year's Vuelta will provide a carnival-like atmosphere whenever the Spaniard is within sight of spectators.
While the 42-year-old would understandably love to win a stage as he aims to bow out of professional cycling on a high, the fanfare across Spain for one of the country's greatest-ever cyclists will produce plenty of entertainment. Consequently, this makes Valverde one of the main riders to watch at the Vuelta, regardless of his performance in the race.
Keep an eye out on stage 11 especially, as the race starts in his home region of Murcia. He also has previous experience of winning atop the Sierra de la Pandera, a summit finish which features on stage 14 of this year's race.
Don't expect Valverde to ride like its a procession, though. He is still as competitive as ever, and will undoubtedly target stage wins, if not a strong showing on GC. Movistar need a good performance from the veteran.
Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
It seems Evenepoel has been gearing his whole season towards this one race, such is his desperation to take the Vuelta win at just 22-years-old.
His Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team have facilitated his desires, compiling a tailored programme for the young Belgian to get in peak condition come the Spanish Grand Tour. This plan has seemingly come to fruition, too, as Evenepoel proved his form at last month's Clásica San Sebastián. He solo-attacked 45km from the finish to comprehensively win, beating plenty of riders expected to ride at the Vuelta on the way to a commanding victory.
Additionally, Evenepoel's time trialling ability will certainly come in very useful on stage ten, with a 31.1km TT from Elche to Alicante. This event could prove the difference between Evenepoel challenging for the overall win, and this season he has finished first or second in a time trial on all five occasions.
Having competed in just one Grand Tour in his career previously, at the 2020 Giro d'Italia, it will be interesting to see how the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider makes up for his lack of experience across the three weeks as one of the team leaders.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)
Will Almeida do what his UAE Team Emirates teammate Tadej Pogačar couldn't do this year and win a Grand Tour?
The Portuguese national champion finished in second on GC at the Vuelta a Burgos most recently, 35 seconds behind Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), who is also competing at the Vuelta. Almeida did manage to win stage five of the race, though, a steep summit finish he managed to prove his climbing capabilities ahead of a heavy three weeks in Spain.
Despite having to withdraw from the Giro d'Italia on stage 19 due to a positive Covid-19 test, Almeida was in contention for the overall win, as he sat just 1-54 back on the -then leader Richard Carapaz. He also seemed nailed on to take the youth classification, but had his race curtailed at the last.
The 24-year-old is set to make his Vuelta a España debut at this edition, having only ever raced at the Giro. He is yet to win a Grand Tour stage, too, but he has the potential to alter that record.
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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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