A preview of the 77th Vuelta a Espana
By Kevin Kemp
Primoz Roglic and his jumbos during the happy hour after the 2021 Vuelta victory in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela | Photo: Cor Vos
08/18/2022 | (rsn) – On Friday, the 77th Vuelta a Espana starts in the Dutch city of Utrecht with the team time trial. The favorite is Primoz Roglic (Jumbo – Visma), who has won the Tour of Spain in the last three years. This year, however, the competition seems stronger than last year – and the Slovenian is vulnerable, as the season has shown.
In addition to Roglic, there are eight other former Grand Tour winners at the start. With Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan), two veterans left this group. Jai Hindley (Bora – hansgrohe) was able to make a second coup after his Giro victory in the spring, his biggest rival in the Tour of Italy is also back at the start: Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers). The Olympic champion will be supported by Tao Geoghegan Hart, his compatriot Simon Yates (BikeExchange), who won the Vuelta 2018. Chris Froome (Israel – Premier Tech) can hardly interfere in the fight for the front place.
Five strong teams
There are also strong touring riders in Utrecht besides the Grand Tour winners. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) is a serious contender for the overall title, but his 19-year-old teammate Juan Ayuso can build on his success. With Marc Soler and Brandon McNulty, the two Iberians have two strong assistants, both of whom may be able to finish in the top ten in the overall ranking. However, the Portuguese captain, was cautious. “I will try to classify as best as I can. I didn’t have great legs before. I don’t want to raise expectations of a podium or anything,” the 24-year-old said.
Bora – hansgrohe is setting up a similarly strong team, because alongside Hindley, Sergio Higuita and Wilco Kelderman will be pedaling for Raublingers. Matteo Fabbro, who will be the only assistant on the plateau, has been appointed to the sick Emanuel Buchmanns. But, like the Giro, the captain can quickly step into the role of assistant. “If I lose time in the first week, I will do everything to help the best in the overall ranking. And vice versa,” said Hindley.
Ineos Grenadiers also sent a very strong block into the tournament. Apart from Carapaz and Geoghegan Hart, Spain’s second top talent will be the main focus. Carlos Rodriguez entered the world class this year and, like Ayuso, is making his Grand Tour debut. Assistant Pavel Sivakov himself reached the top ten of the three-week tour in 2019. With Luke Plapp there is another touring talent in the Brits’ team, who will have Ethan Hayter all round in the tournament. Ineos should be hard to beat in the team time trial.
Bahrain Victorious will also cruise through Spain with many contenders for the top spot in the table. Although Wout Poels doesn’t seem fit enough for a good ranking, Bahrain still has a potential trio in the form of long-time favorite Mikel Landa, last season’s Vuelta fifth place winner Gino Mäder and Santiago Buitrago.
Roglic and Jumbo – Visma will face this competition mainly with Sepp Kuss, Rohan Dennis and Sam Oomen; Undoubtedly strong line up, which, however, does not exceed the competition in the top and level. After the tour of Slovenia ended, there was still a question mark behind his form. “I’m only here because I’m ready. The next week will show what I can do,” said the Slovenian in a zoom conference with media representatives.
More favorites in strong areas
At Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl they rely on Remco Evenepoel, who at the end of a great season still wants to break through as a touring driver. He is joined by Julian Alaphilippe, Ilan van Wilder and Fausto Masnada. In addition to a strong climbing division, the Belgians also bring a good team to the team time trial, making them Ineos’ biggest challengers in Stage 1.
As often this season, Enric Mas formed a Movistar duo with Valverde in a difficult final. Astana also has two strong riders in Nibali and Miguel Angel Lopez; With the ninth tour Alexey Lutsenko, the third can be added. AG2R Citroën relies on Ben O’Connor while Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert hopes to get at least one of the three climbers through; Jan Hirt, Domenico Pozzovivo and Louis Meintjes could finish at the back of the ten.
DSM sent young star Thymen Arensman into his first race as captain in the Grand Tour shortly before leaving for Ineos. However, he will be a lone wolf in the mountains like Yates, who can still hope with Lucas Hamilton. In an interview with VeloNews, the Brit was not sure who was in what shape. “A lot of riders are coming from the Giro. I’m not interested in the other races in Spain in the last few weeks. We’ll see, I don’t know for sure,” said the 30-year-old.
In contrast to BikeExchange, EF Education – EasyPost has a strong line on paper, but both Rigoberto Uran and Hugh Carthy have just barely been able to convince this year. Esteban Chaves continues to impress. Whether Michael Woods (Israel – Premier Tech) focuses on classification or winning the stage may only be decided after the first week.
In contrast to the climbers, the field of sprinters in the Tour of Spain is clear. Among the top sprinters this year, only Tim Merlier (Alpecin – Deceuninck) participated. In four opportunities to run, he will go head to head with Mads Pedersen (Trek – Segafredo), Kaden Groves (BikeExchange – Jayco) and Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert). There is still hope from the German point of view, because Pascal Ackermann (UAE Emirates Team), who has a strong starter in Juan Sebastian Molano, can count on a chance to win the stage. Bora – With Sam Bennett and Danny van Poppel, hansgrohe sent the fast duo into the battle for the day’s victory.
German speaking driver
Only six Germans, three Swiss, two Luxembourgers and one Austrian will participate in this year’s Vuelta. In addition to Ackermann and Mäder, Nikias Arndt, Grand Tour debutant Marco Brenner (both DSM), Jonas Koch and Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) can also hope for a chance of victory in the moderately difficult stage. In a very difficult section, Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën) could try to repeat the success of his Tour day. Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar) will also look at the mountain stage to be able to fight for the stage win from the group of the day.