Eight Predictions for the Vuelta Espana

The Grand Tours keep coming. I can’t remember a season where the gap between the Giro and the Vuelta felt so quick. The Vuelta holds no surprises. The route is spiky and comes to a head in the final week. The field is packed with a mixture of big name GC riders seeking redemption and we’ve even got a top tier sprinter! Here are eight predictions…

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Sky will have no serious GC threat…

Team Sky have landed all four Grand Tours since Tom Dumoulin grabbed his big win at last year’s Giro. Three of those victories have been extremely formulaic with Sky’s brilliant race management sucking the life out of their rivals. However, every team needs a leader and Sky’s Vuelta selection is likely to come up short. There’s a mixture of concern and excitement in the direction of David de la Cruz. The Spaniard has led the Vuelta before and could be ready to make a big step up in Sky colours; but I doubt it. He was solid at the recent Vuelta a Burgos but will need to find more to compete at this level. I don’t think we’ll see Sky in the top five.

David de La Cruz

Bora Bora…

Whilst Peter Sagan will absorb the Bora spotlight, far more exciting things are happening in the team’s climbing department. Emanuel Buchmann, Davide Formolo and Rafal Majka ride together for the first time since this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour. Majka is the only one who’s finished in the top five of a Grand Tour but it’s the team’s two junior climbers that excite the most. Buchmann and Formolo finished 7th and 8th at the recent Tour of Pologne and should be spending a lot of time together in the next three weeks. With no Grand Tour in his legs this year, Buchmann could be the one to watch; the German’s finished in the top ten of each stage race he’s started in 2018.

Buchmann and Formolo

Dan Martin will win a stage…

I don’t believe that Tour de France eigith place finish Dan Martin will ride for GC honours at this year’s Vuelta. He is, however, too brilliant to be packaged into a Fabio Aru domestique. The Irishman loves riding in Spain and is the team’s most likely stage hunter by a wide margain.  I believe Martin will win a stage and won’t be surprised if it’s in the first week.

The European Champion is back for revenge…

A quick glance at the vastly improved sprinting selection at this year’s Vuelta will tell you that Matteo Trentin will have a tough job on his hands to repeat his success from 2017. Nevertheless, the European champion is clearly carrying some form through to the late summer and the parcours suit his talents. Last year Chris Froome snatched the points jersey out of his hands but Trentin should go close again. Viviani is the fastest sprinter in the race but Trentin is good enough to get into plenty of breaks. I’d like to see it happen!

Matteo Trentin 3

Wilco time…

Wilco Kelderman has had a weird year. Tom Dumoulin was given plenty of backing by Team Sunweb and repaid their faith with two superb podiums. All this came at the expense of Kelderman but the former LottoNL-Jumbo man did not ride the Tour de France in a support role following a crash at the National Championships. The result of this twist of fate is a talented climber with just 22 days of riding in his legs including a good ride at June’s Tour de Suisse. You might be surprised to hear that Kelderman and Dumoulin are actually the same age. It’s time for Wilco to step up!

The best Colombian wins…

We have seen a recent trend of time trial converts outperforming archetypical climbers when it comes to Grand Tour racing. Nairo Quintana has borne the brunt of this and has struggled to topple the might of Team Sky, amongst others. The Vuelta, however, offers some salvation for the 60kg club and Quintana cashed in at the 2016 race. If he hopes to add another Vuelta to his collection he will have to dance past compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez in the final week. The Astana rider grew wings at this race twelve months ago and I expect him to go well again. He looked to be struggling at the Giro but rebounded for a brilliant third place. It’s Lopez time. Lopez wins the Vuelta.

A switch up for Carapaz…

Another rider to consider is Giro d’Italia fourth place finisher Richard Carapaz. He returned to racing at the Tour of Poland and looked in fine fettle on unfavourable terrain. The biggest problem for Carapaz is his team. Movistar may decide to put Carapaz’s GC ambitions on hold for another season; his rise to the top has been fast. Nevertheless, the team will need to cash in on their home Grand Tour after failing to claim a stage  last year and snatching just one in 2016. I think Carapaz will be set free to hunt stages and won’t be surprised if he ends up in King of the Mountains colours. He’s 40/1 to do so.

The return of Felline…

I’ve got my eyes on Trek-Segafredo, a team who has struggled since the departure of Fabian Cancellara and Alberto Contador. Bauke Mollema and Gianluca Brambilla provide experience but won’t trouble the race favourites. Trek also bring Fabio Felline who battled illness in 2017 and has collected no major results this year. The Italian is super talented and can play a part on pretty much every type of stage. The Vuelta suits all-rounders and I’d love Felline to bounce back with a victory.

My Top Ten…

My Tour de France predicted top ten was a shambles. Here’s my Vuelta prediction!

1. Miguel Angel Lopez
2. Nairo Quintana
3. Wilco Kelderman
4. George Bennett
5. Emanuel Buchmann
6. Simon Yates
7. Thibaut Pinot
8. Fabio Aru
9. Steven Kruijswijk
10. Davide Formolo

What about Richie?

To recap my thoughts on Richie Porte: I like him and I want him to win the Vuelta. He’s the best climber and is able to take chunks of time on the likes of Quintana on the 32km time trial. However, I worry he isn’t in the form we all think he is. It’s difficult to understand why he is the bookies favourite. I think he’ll have bad days. He might even fall away completely and then win a stage in the final week. Happy to be proved wrong!

What about Vincenzo?

In good shape, Nibali would win this Vuelta. Even without much form he’d find a way of making the top five. However, I think the Italian will ride in preparation for the World Championships. Which he’ll probably win.

 

 

 

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