Who are the favourites for the 2021 Vuelta a Espana

The Vuelta a Espana starts on Saturday.

I know. It took me by surprise as well.

Who’s going to win it?

Primoz Roglic

Foto Fabio Ferrari / LaPresse

Slovenian rider Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) won the Vuelta last year and the year before. While he crashed out of this year’s Tour de France, reservations about his form were killed, eaten, digested, excreted and blasted into space when he won the Olympic time trial. Second, third, fourth and fifth on the day were all separated by five seconds and Primoz finished a minute faster than them.

Egan Bernal

Foto Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse

Roglic’s most obvious rival is Team Ineos’s Egan Bernal, who won the Giro d’Italia in pretty fine style earlier this year. The Colombian’s only raced twice since then – a one-day classic in July and the week-long Vuelta a Burgos last week – so he should be pretty fresh. If his back permits, expect him to stay strong into the third week. He also has very decent support from…

Richard Carapaz

Support or alternate team leader? I couldn’t tell you – and Ineos probably can’t either. The Ecuadorian finished third in the Tour de France and then won the Olympic road race. You could think of his condition as almost the opposite of Bernal’s. He’ll be on a voyage of discovery, hoping he won’t burn out.

Adam Yates

Might as well do all the Ineos possibles in a row. Because that’s which Yates twin Adam is – the one who moved to Ineos. The Bury Bullet didn’t ride the Giro or the Tour this year and, like Bernal, hasn’t raced much at all since the spring. He was ninth in the Olympic road race though and once finished fourth in the Tour de France, so he definitely has the potential to be in amongst it all.

Hugh Carthy

The Peregrine of Preston – as absolutely no-one has ever called him until just now – had a marvellous Vuelta last year, winning on the Angliru and finishing third overall. The EF Education-Nippo rider is the man I’ll be rooting for. You can get a better idea of why that is by reading the section about him in this article about last year’s race. (Biscuits and pub sports are key elements.)

Dark horses and also-rans

Let’s lump everyone else into a ‘leftovers’ section. These are riders with the capacity to be in the front group on the hardest stages, but who for one reason or another seem less likely to win.

Mikel Landa, Miguel Angel Lopez and Enric Mas are three riders who often feature prominently during a three-week race, but who have never actually won one.

You’ll probably think of Sep Kuss as a rider who tends to be in the front group on mountain stages, but he has never finished higher than 15th in a Grand Tour as he’s generally assisting Roglic. Team-mate Steven Kruijswijk has a good whack of fourth, fifth and sixths to his name, but he’s probably in the same boat.

It also feels necessary to mention Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru, Esteban Chaves and Alejandro Valverde. All of these riders have ended up on the podium in at least one of the three-week races – indeed Aru won the Vuelta in 2015 – but few are expecting great things from any of them this time around. Valverde will probably do best and he’s the one who can point to being in his forties as a reason for losing his edge.

How to follow the race

For the first time in a good few years, ITV4 will not be covering the Vuelta a Espana. That leaves you with Eurosport as the live TV option and Quest for highlights. (You can get Quest on your TV. Honestly you can.)

Alternatively, you could just rely on written coverage.

As usual, I’ll be doing weekly recaps here – although advance warning that either the first or second one might end up a little perfunctory as I unfortunately have a lot going on. You can sign up to receive these by email here.