18 August 2016
Doesn’t it seem like yesterday that Christopher Froome won the Tour de France? In reality, it is already four weeks ago. Don’t we all agree that it was a boring Tour – again. The first week was still exciting, but after that bizarre descent from Froome and all the running on that mountain, it was all done and dusted. Froome showed for the third time that he was the strongest rider of the field. Almost all the other classification riders could not or did not attack. Scared of their own position. The ‘all or nothing’ attitude seems to be missing in the last editions of the Tour de France. Boohoo!
Well, it is time to sit up straight again, because the Vuelta a España is about to start. The Olympics were also very entertaining, but cycling fans want to watch cycling again after a while. And this race is the most relaxed grand Tour of the three grand Tours. Slow days are allowed, there are spectacular sprints, mountains are covered in clouds, there are sheep and many cows everywhere. And there are attacks! Over and over again. It is the most romantic race of all and… Blow out the candles and get rid of the romantic stuff now. It is time for the facts. Because who do we need to follow in these three weeks in Spain? Do not miss out on these ten guys right here:
1. Tejay van Garderen. He messed up the Tour de France again. So he wants revenge. Winning the Vuelta might be hard, but he wants to go for a top-five or stage win.
2. Nairo Quintana. With a place in the top-five last year (fourth) and the disappointment of this year’s Tour de France, Quintana’s goal is to make it to the podium. Maybe he is thinking of winning his first Vuelta, but then he has to be in a better shape than a few weeks ago.
3. Louis Meintjes. He was there, in the Tour de France. A top-ten classification. But he is not going to the Vuelta for a top-ten, he is here to claim some stage victories. Better watch him in the mountains.
4. Esteban Chaves. Watch this little fellow. With two stage wins last year he is back to claim more than that. Podium? Why not? Claim his first win of a grand Tour? It is possible, especially after his second place in the Giro this year.
5. Steven Kruijswijk. He was so close in this year’s Giro d’Italia. But he took too much risk in one of the descents. And gone was the pink jersey. He has learned his lesson. And now he is back. Pink is his favorite colour, but red might suit him just as well.
6. Christopher Froome. The winner of the Tour de France starts in the Vuelta. And he is there with only one goal and that is the red jersey. After two second places, in 2011 and 2014, Froome thinks it is about time to show the world that he is not only a ‘Tour de France guy’.
7. Alberto Contador. What a shame that he did not finish the Tour de France due to two crashes. But he is pain-free, he races again and he is ready for the Vuelta. We can expect some early attacks from him in the mountains.
8. Philippe Gilbert. He is always strong in the Vuelta, so I bet he will go for a stage win this year. There aren’t many sprinters in this edition of the Vuelta, so that means that the chances to win a sprint stage increase for Gilbert.
9. Simon Gerrans. We all remember his crash in the Tour de France. That was a nasty one. But he has recovered and the Vuelta starts with a team time trial. His team is good in that kind of stuff. He wore pink and yellow already, so why not red for a change?
10. Omar Fraile. Does this name ring a bell? He is the winner of the mountain classification of last year. I don’t know if he is able to do it again this year, with so many good climbers participating, but you never know what he is capable of, so keep a close eye on him too.