Vuelta a España Overall Preview
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Roglic & Kruijswijk
The team that's had the biggest evolution this season, not only individually but as a team mostly and the quality of the team coming here is a big summary of it. Coming to lead, in theory is Primoz Roglic, who had an incredible start to the season and finished on the podium in the Giro. At the time the team was criticized for the lack of support Roglic had, but the truth is luck was far from them with Gesink getting injured before the race and Laurens de Plus, who has in the meantime had a breakthrough couple of months also suffered from a crash on the second stage. Roglic held on despite the adversity and has since only raced on his national championships. He is coming into the race relatively undercooked but it's understandable seeing his heavy schedule early in the season and the possibility of targeting the ITT worlds. On the other side is Steven Kruijswijk, he had the same schedule last season with a Top5 on both Grand Tours, he's having a great season again this year and his consistency is visible in his results with a Top6 in every stage-race he's finished and his Tour was his first GT podium after a brilliant performance. The duo is set to co-lead although Roglic should be more favoured, and they will be supported with a climbing-filled squad. George Bennett, straight from the Tour, Robert Gesink riding after his Giro mishap and the American duo Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless will be of further support. If the team is on very good form there is very little that can penetrate such a core around the leaders.
Main Domestiques: George Bennett, Robert Gesink, Sep Kuss
Coming from his breakthrough dominant Giro win Richard Carapaz is coming to his second Grand Tour of the season. It's not a debut, he has done so last year aswell and got to the last week with brilliant legs so I can trust he has the consistency to repeat the feat, since his Giro win he has came back to competition last week in Burgos where he finished third place, showing some solid form for the start line in Spain. Although Movistar as said it's going with a three-pronged aproach, if they are aware of it it's a bluff, I would call it more a three-pronged bunch of riders to back Carapaz in the mountains and that can put the other teams under pressure, as there's Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde coming in, solid contenders for the overall but they haven't shown the consistency needed to fight for the win, and Marc Soler who was really coming into form in the final week of the Tour and we should see a lot of him here as he has the legs to be with the best, although likely he will be put in a purely supportive role, and Antonio Pedrero should be aswell despite hs big potential that has started to be brought up this season.
Main Domestiques: Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana, Marc Soler, Antonio Pedrero
Miguel Angel Lopez
Similarly to Carapaz Miguel Angel Lopez has also returned to competition recently, in the Tour de Pologne, and despite his form coming shy there it is no reason to be warned, but the real comparison comes in the team as there is a battalion behind the Colombian. Reminding that he has had a Giro full of hazzards, with badly-timed mechanicals and even a crash due to a spectator and that has somewhat been the story of his 3-week racing, but if he can avoid it he comes as a big favourite as his climbing keeps getting better and he comes wit Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre to support him in the high mountains. But it doesn't stop there, as it's known for Astana depth always comes big and a set of explosive riders and engines, as Gorka Izagirre, Dario Cataldo, Omar Fraile, Luis Leon Sanchez and Manuele Boaro .
Main Domestiques: Jakob Fuglsang, Ion Izagirre
In EF we see a big mess, one that can work out very well but one that seems somehow deorganized. So leading, according to the team, is Rigoberto Uran, who had a 7th place in the Tour after an early injury in the season got him somehow with little racing until now, so that's what gives me the confidence that he can still perform well here. However there doesn't seem to be a big coordination, Hugh Carthy had an amazing Giro and some great performances in Romandie/Suisse, as since raced San Sebastian and seems in form for a Vuelta that suits him very well. Besides them there's the surprising debut of Sergio Higuita, debuted for the team only three months ago and was scheduled in theory for the Autumn classics but there was a change and he is coming here, big potential and the team will also keep an eye on him, but likely he will keep his expectations contained as he is making his debut on a race of this dimension. There's also Dani Martinez, seemed good and fresh coming here after an injury derailed him off the Tour, but he got sick before the Tour of Utah so he is coming without any racing, will be a joker but likely the leadership would surely fall for his teammates. There's also an American presence of Tejay van Garderen and Lawson Craddock in there, surprisingly no Joe Dombrowski who seems in great form and I think would be a more reasonable choice.
Majka & Formolo
Bora have an interesting squad, whilst Sam Bennett will have the support of Jempy Drucker and Shane Archbold the team has gone for a more focued approach on their climbers then in the Giro, where the duo was quite successful in their overall stint. Here, in the land of steep climbs and explosive racing these two should fit like a glove, both of them raced the Tour of Pologne, GC-wise it wasn't great but they showed good form and a motivating sign for what's coming. Whilst Majka only raced there, Davide Formolo has been more busy as he became Italian National champion and travelled to Tokyo for the Olympics Test Event where he was second. For support they will have the Austrians Felix Grossschartner and Gregor Muhlberger who should be quite an important duo as they've been climbing very well this year and the previous will be racing his first GT of the season, and adding to that there's Pawel Poljanski.
Main Domestiques: Felix Grossschartner, Gregor Muhlberger
Perhaps it's a bit ambitious to include this young man in the list. Is it? Yeah.. Or maybe not, this is personal opinion, I think not. This year is being marked by a generation leap, lot of riders having big breakthrough performances including a 22-year old winning the Tour, showing there are riders at this age with the consistency needed to thrive on such a race. And to be honest, that's what Pogacar needs, because the climbing quality he has no doubt, with stage and overall wins in the Algarve and California, he's fresher than most contenders coming into the race, he has former winner Fabio Aru with him and it's still a question wether he'll have his best legs back during the race, but the signs haven't been the best so far, Valerio Conti and Sergio Henao should provide further support. Sure you can say Pogacar is too young to contest a Grand Tour, but if he hasn't done it yet you also can't affirm that he can't, winner of the Tour de l'Avenir last year he knows how to deal with long stage-races fairly well to say the least.
Main Domestiques: Fabio Aru
So, like EF I'm not pointing out a certain name as the leader, and in fact it's a bit of an unknown to come into a Grand Tour without having a dominant INEOS squad iminent (yes the Giro happened, but due to Bernal's injuries). And in fact the leadership here isn't certain at the start line aswell, Tao Geogheghan Hart is the most clear name to take, after having to withdraw from the Giro after a crash, he has since rode Pologne as some of the other contenders coming into the race, and there is also Wout Poels who isn't naturally one of the leaders but he has the experience of it, and has 13 Grand Tours already to his name, it didn't come to plan but he entered the Tour relatively short in form and came around in the final week, and after having seen his win at the Dauphiné and performances at Down Under/Algarve, also obviously taking into acount he's a rider that has the recovery needed for back-to-back Grand Tours he can be considered a contender. As we get into the race we will see how they will organize, but without the pressure for a big result it can come as a good and surprising performance, having pure climbers like Kenny Elissonde and Sebastian Henao in what is a very well rounded team is an extra point for what may come.
The last rider I'm taking into acount on this list is Pierre Latour. Why is that? Well he has been a steady developer over the years in AG2R, often focusing on the Tour but injury has cast him to refocus this season and that may have come as a good thing, as not that many big GC riders are targeting the Vuelta, and seeing how Latour only has 26 race days this season, he is definetely coming fresh but also in good form as he seems to have finally hit it in the recent Tour de Pologne with a 6th place but above all a sharp and consistent string of performances. In his Grand Tour debut here three years ago he won the final mountain stage, this year marks his return and he is a rider that fits the Vuelta's characteristics very well, he's a punchy climber suited for the explosive short efforts, with a very good sprint for his type of rider and his time-trialing is also very decent as he is a two-time time-trial national champion. He has freshess on his side and will still come as a relative outsider, which can play into his hands in some moments of the race, he has a squad that have had training camps are now racing together, a good mix between getting stage wins and a GC stint, with Geoffrey Bouchard and François Bidard likely to be his main men.
Main Domestiques: Geoffrey Bouchard, François Bidard
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Roglic, Carapaz
⭐⭐⭐⭐ MA.Lopez, Kruijswijk
⭐ Pogacar, Latour, Hart, Poels, Formolo, Aru, Higuita, Kelderman
And my call is for Primoz Roglic to take the win in the end of the Vuelta! At first glance I was a bit surprised that Roglic wasn't racing pre-Vuelta, but after thinking through and realizing it may have been with the intention of compensating for the big amount of climbing early in the season it can be a good thing, he sure won't be cracking on the final week and the support he will get - if he has the legs - will be great. Jumbo has been having a great season and this seems like another chapter in 2019 where they can be the best, and Roglic's evolution has been leading towards an inevitable Grand Tour win.
As one of the season's stand out fast men there is no surprise in having him as the main sprinter in the race, he's had 11 wins this season and most came in WorldTour races. Bora has had a standout season when it comes to sprinting as Pascal Ackermann also became one of the most dominant sprinters in the peloton, but their calendar was well split and both have been successful. In terms of form there's no doubt, Bennett recently won three stages in a row in the BinckBankTour without a leadout which takes confidence, and it doesn't feel like a big disadvantage in relation to other sprinters, as he is coming with Jempy Drucker and Shane Archbold to support him and position him in the fast finishes.
Leadout: Shane Archbold, Jempy Drucker
In his first season with UAE Gaviria, who is still 24, has endured some rough months. Despite getting some wins in San Juan and UAE, he focused in the classics where he did good but not excellent and then his Giro stint was hindered by a knee injury that also kept him out of competition until the Tour de Pologne. He didn't exactly win, but officially he has a win to his name in the Giro and his return to racing was motivating, he looked to have the legs, and he will come motivated as one of the main sprinters in the race and a serious contender for the fast finishes, as both he and his main rival Bennett can go over the hills relatively well. He has fellow Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano to support him and the team has some more riders focused on him and his goal.
Leadout: Juan Sebastian Molano, Marco Marcato, Oliviero Troia
And Deceuninck's option for this race, the Dutch champion and Grand Tour debutant Jakobsen. He's been having a great evolution and is another fruit of the Deceuninck squad and has been doing great this season with 5 wins to his name already and he is the rider that's perhaps coming with the best support to his ambitions, and the Belgian team is ready to attack the flat stages hard. Jakobsen has the support of Max Richeze as the main leadout man, they raced together in California and Turkey and in both races he managed to get a win which gives a great perspective, and having Zdenek Stybar and Phillipe Gilbert for the punchy finishes and Rémi Cavagna and Tim Declercq is definetely a big up for the whole team.
Leadout: Max Richeze, Zdenek Stybar, Phillipe Gilbert, Rémi Cavagna, Tim Declercq
I have to mention last year's winner of this classification, in fact a 4-time winner of this classification. He won't be leading the team for sure but if there's something we are accostumed to is seeing him deal with the sprints, and in the hills/mountains, doing the same. With only 3 stages that are a pure flat stage and sprint, the other stages he should get points and the mountain/hilly ones he should find himself getting some points aswell, and seeing the points given in different types of stages don't differ he won't loose as much of a buffer in those, and is able to recover them in the rougher stages.
Luka Mezgec/Jonas Koch
And these are the other sprinters I consider candidates for the classification. Luka Mezgec an obvious choice, always a sprinter that was able to deal with the climbing well, but his performance in the Tour de Pologne last week with two stage wins, including a dominant uphill sprint shown signs of big form into the Vuelta and without serious GC contenders in the team he has the freedom that for example Matteo Trentin doesn't always see. And as for Jonas Koch, maybe an outsider name but he is a similar type of rider to Mezgec, I could pick Bevin but I think Koch will be the CCC rider focusing on the sprints, the German won the points classification in the Tour of Austria recently, has quite the punch for the hard finishes but the power for the faster ones too, and the team will give him the chance and support him that.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ S.Bennett, Valverde
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Gaviria, Jakobsen
⭐ Doull, Aranburu, Degenkolb
All finishes - 25, 20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
IS - 4, 2, 1
I'm going with Valverde to take another win at this classification, consistency is key, and despite not believing he will be at the front of affairs in the mountains, there are plenty of hilly stages mainly in the first week where he can take lots of points, and from there on it's just ranking up the points where needed.
Blue Polka Dots Jersey
O.Rodrigues & Bizkarra
I point them at first as they are maybe the riders I want to see succeed the best. Rodrigues took a maiden win last year at La Camperona and this year his performances have come much more regular with a recent second place in the Burgos GC, and as for Bizkarra he has had long training camps and has reconned deveral stages mainly in the second week. With the race going through the Basque Country, a low (but possible) expectation for the GC but great climbing qualities, one of the home teams is sure to try something and have in these two riders legitimate contenders for the classification, pure climbers.
Bahrain is not likely to tilt at the GC in this Vuelta, and after targeting (and succeeding) stage wins at the Tour Dylan Teuns is surely coming with similar ambitions here. A puncheur that can climb very well, he's one of the riders I expect to see more on the attack and he definetely fits the picture of the last few winners of the competition, de Gendt, Villela and Fraile.
And yes, I have Fraile rated as one of the contenders. Not just Fraile in fact, between him, Gorka Izagirre and Luis Leon Sanchez I see one of them going for the jersey, Astana have enough riders to target the classification and Lopez' racing style is adequate for having riders in front, and Fraile strikes me as a past winner and as a very explosive rider that can get points in the small climbs and hills.
Thomas de Gendt
Unlike in the Tour where it only favours climbers, in the Vuelta the points system allows puncheurs and riders like de Gendt target this jersey and win it. He did in fact last year, perfect for hilly and rolling stages, a strong sprint for when needed and stages with lots of climbs are ideal for his goals here, with no GC and no sprinters in the team to work for he has the freedom to do the race as long as he has the legs.
And my last name on this list is Mikel Nieve, I see him target as another home rider, suited for the big mountain stages and with the long history of several mountain stages falling for the breakaway there's a good chance of seeing the Basque taking one, and a KOM jersey may be definetely a goal as long as everything goes to normal and he doesn't target the GC as he has in the past.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ O.Rodrigues, Nieve
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Teuns, de Gendt, Fraile, Carapaz
⭐ Brambilla, Edet, Majka, Valverde
Cubilla - 20,15,10,6,4,2
ES - 15,10,6,4,2
1st - 10, 6, 4, 2, 1
2nd - 5, 3, 1
3rd - 3, 2, 1
Going with Nieve for this one, I see a free Mitchelton on the hunt for stages as in the Tour and Nieve has a great history with that type of racing, he should do so and be one of the main men in the Vuelta, I have no doubt.
Miguel Angel Lopez
The obvious choice as a contender for the race overall and set team leader, I've talked about him previously and everything is the same, he is the man to beat for this jersey.
Carthy may struggle with leadership issues in his team, he wore this jersey back in May in the Giro until a rough day in Lago Serrù, but if he is able to get through the Vuelta without one of those, and is able to profit on the favourable terrain for him he is a big contender.
I've mentioned Pogacar too beforehand, may be too early for him but it is something definetely on his mind, in case the GC is too much this may be a secondary goal.
Tao Geogheghan Hart
And for Hart should be the same, not a rookie in the Grand Tours, he's been cooking in INEOS' squad and has a place of respect at this point, he may be the leader here and target the jersey as main goal.
And finally Sergio Higuita, I don't believe he'll be any kind of leader but he has the legs there's no doubt, his California confirmed the promise he shown early in the season and in the Vuelta he should be vital support for whoever leads in the team.
⭐ Martinez, Padun, Knox, O'Connor, O.Rodríguez
Despite this likely being a race of Lopez against everyone else, the GC is the real challenge so he won't have to be focusing on that unless if it's a really tight fight, likely in the final week. He won the last two white jerseys in the Giro and (without checking) he may have done the same in here if it had a jersey for it, but this year there is and he is going for it.
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