Who’s going to win the 2019 Vuelta a Espana?
Simon Yates won the Vuelta last year. Simon Yates isn’t riding the Vuelta this year.
So who’s going to win?
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
The former ski jumper is the most interesting rider at this year’s race because he’s the only one who’s an all-rounder. But how much use is time trialling in a race that delivers any number of uphill finishes? Guess we’ll find out. Roglic is supported by “The Coathanger” Steven Kruijswijk, who should also be right up there.
Richard Carapaz (Movistar)
The Ecuadorean is the second most interesting rider at this year’s race because he won this year’s Giro d’Italia. He’s barely been seen since but he’s sure to do well in his last outing before moving to Team Ineos.
Update: Carapaz has since been ruled out with a shoulder injury following a crash last weekend.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
For a brief mad moment I had Quintana down as “supporting” Carapaz, but that’s not really how things work at Movistar. Quintana will be riding for the win too. Like Carapaz, the Colombian is leaving the team at the end of the season and presumably wants to go out on a high after a few insipid years.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos)
The Briton is probably the third most interesting rider at this year’s race – not so much because he’s a definite contender as because he has no great Grand Tour history and yet finds himself leading the biggest and best-funded team in cycling. Presumably they know something that we’re yet to see.
Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott)
In 2016, the Colombian finished second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta. After that, things went downhill a bit (or, more accurately, uphill but at a slightly slower speed). He was eventually diagnosed with glandular fever last year. Hopefully he’s over it because everyone likes Esteban Chaves and his cartoonishly wide smile.
Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First)
As a cyclist, Uran’s been runner-up in the Tour de France. As a bloke, this is the opening line of the ‘early life’ section of his Wikipedia page: “Urán was first introduced to the world of cycling at the age of 14 by his father, who was assassinated a few months later by one of the country’s paramilitary terrorist groups.”
Miguel Ángel López (Astana)
Third last year, I can’t possibly write about Lopez – the fourth Colombian in this list – without mentioning him lamping that spectator during the Giro. Lopez’s nickname is ‘Superman’ which is the kind of thing a young man could probably do without.
Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)
The 2015 winner is another who’s been off the pace the last few years. Earlier this year, he underwent surgery for a constricted iliac artery in his left leg.
The first week
An oddly subdued start. The Vuelta remembers what it’s supposed to be on Wednesday and then pretty much just sticks with that for the next fortnight.
Stage one (Saturday August 24): 13.4km team time trial
Stage two (Sunday): Hilly with a bobbly run-in
Stage three (Monday): Flat
Stage four (Tuesday): Flat
Stage five (Wednesday): Summit finish (11.1km at 7.8%)
Stage six (Thursday): Uphill finish (7.9km at 5%)
Stage seven (Friday): A pure Vuelta summit finish (4.1km at 12.3%)
Stage eight (Saturday): Hilly with a flat finish
Stage nine (Sunday): Short mountain stage with an uphill finish (5.7km at 8.3%)
I’ll be back every few stages to give you a state-of-play round-up kind of thing. You can sign up to get it emailed to you here.