The last major cycling race of the year starts on the 25th of August: the Vuelta a España (The Tour of Spain). For three weeks, riders will go to the Iberian Peninsular to push their limits. The Vuelta differs from the other two Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, because the Vuelta is often a race for those who have either failed in the Tour or perhaps missed it, through injury or otherwise. Of course, there are also riders who consciously choose the Giro-Vuelta combination. Either way, we checked out this year’s participants, looking for the big names that will give this Tour of Spain its character.
During the Dutch National Road Race Championships, Wilco Kelderman crashed out badly, which meant he had to miss the Tour. Though he is also recovering from another injury, he is miraculously riding in the Vuelta 2018. Not such ideal circumstances. Yet, without even preparing he managed to finish fifth in the 2018 Tour de Suisse, in June. He also finished fourth place in the Tour of Spain last year, so he is definitely a rider that we should not write off.
Bauke Mollema is a typical rider who was completely focused on the Tour this year, but due to a crash during the cobbled stage, he dropped down the general classification. He tried to gain time after being on the attack a couple of times, but his sprint finish was not strong enough—a challenge he faced again during this year’s Clásica San Sebastián. So, it’s not clear what Mollema will do in the Vuelta. He can compete for a good general classification, but he might also choose to go on the attack in certain stages instead.
Steven Kruijswijk proved during the Tour de France 2018 that his near-win a few years in the Giro was no fluke. He will now carry his excellent performance in Tour through to the Vuelta. He rode together with Roglič during the Tour, but he now has the young talented rider George Bennet by his side. Kruijswijk will for sure achieve a good classification.
Vincenzo Nibali was on his way to a good classification in the Tour, but a clash with a spectator threw it into chaos. Participation in the Vuelta was already in the schedule of the nicknamed Shark of Messina, but due to moderate preparation his fitness isn’t great, so we don’t expect to see a good classification from him. What he might bring is a good attack, which is what he is known for and how he won Milan-San Remo this year.
Richie Porte, known for his bad luck within the peloton, makes his appearance in the Vuelta after a crash in the Tour. He seems to be mainly riding in preparation for the 2018 UCI Road World Championships held later this year. But if Porte has retained a bit of his form from the Tour, he might just achieve a good ranking.
Peter Sagan won the green jersey in the Tour this year for the six-billionth time (okay, sixth time), despite a hard fall during the last week. As a result, he was unable to compete well in the last stages. For Sagan, the Road World Championships are always a huge goal, and he hopes to rebuild his form with participation in the Vuelta.
Thibaut Pinot rode an excellent Giro this year, until illness threw a spanner in the works and he eventually had to give up. After that he was so exhausted that the Tour was too much for him. Hopefully, he now has enough energy to blaze in the Vuelta. He has finished seventh in the past—a placement he hopes to beat.
For a long time, Nairo Quintana was the only challenger to Chris Froome, but for the past two years he’s been off the radar, a shadow of who he was before. After a two-year absence from the Vuelta he is back once again to try and win. A crash made the last week of the Tour difficult for Quintana but we hoped that he has fully recovered.
2014 and 2015 were top years for Fabio Aru. He was the great new Italian talent, who twice made it to the podium in the Giro, and won the Vuelta in 2015. Thereafter he aimed his arrows at the Tour, but never placed higher than fifth. Now 2018 is here and luck hasn’t been on his side so far, yet we expect a good Vuelta performance.
Simon (and Adam) Yates
During this year’s edition of the Giro, it seemed nobody could keep Simon Yates from winning—until he sabotaged it himself. In one stage, he lost almost half an hour and his dream was over. But with a number of stage victories in his pocket, it wasn’t a bad Giro. So this Vuelta he will start, once again, with his twin brother Adam.
Rigoberto Urán Urán
The name you can’t forget: Rigoberto Urán Urán. After a few disappointing years, he managed to get second on the Tour podium last year. He had a crash earlier this year, but is coming back to the Vuelta to prove himself.