Vuelta a España 2014 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Vuelta a España 2014 Preview

By David Hunter

The final ground tour is here.

Chris Horner, the surprise winner in 2013, returns to defend his crown. Horner won in a titanic battle with Vincenzo Nibali back in 2013 and we hope for another close race. logovuelta

This year, is slightly less brutal. We start with a TTT and end with a short ITT. There is another, 36.7km ITT, in the middle of the race. In total we have 59km of time trial, so it’s important that the GC riders don’t lose too much time.

Nairo Quintana is the rider everyone is talking about. He was brilliant in the Giro and returned to racing in Burgos, last week. He was back with a bang, taking the title, with Dani Moreno in second place. It must be pointed out, the field wasn’t very strong in Burgos. He is attempting to pull off the double, at just 24 years old. This is a very difficult task! A very impressive, Vincenzo Nibali, just fell short of the double, last year. Quintana is a one of those very special riders, can he do what Nibali couldn’t?

Chris Froome goes into the race with a massive question mark over his head. He abandoned the tour on 9th July and hasn’t raced since. On the plus side, he only did 4 stages of the tour, so didn’t use up any energy. On the down side, he could be rusty and is certainly lacking race legs. The good news for Froome, is the first hard stage is stage 6. This will give the Englishman time to get some kilometres, in the legs. Like Quintana, he is a very special rider. If anyone is capable of winning from his position, it is he.

Next in line is Joaquim Rodriguez. Purito, was meant to be using the tour as training, but couldn’t help himself and got drawn into a fight for the polka dot jersey. He came up short, but that was no surprise, given his lack of racing. At 35 years old, he is not getting any younger and this could be his last chance of winning a grand tour. The downside for him is the amount of TT kilometres. This is often his downfall, as it leaves him far too much ground to make up in the mountains.  In his favour is the amount of stages that end in short, steep climbs. This year, we have four of these “Purito” stages.

Incredibly, Alberto Contador is here. Just weeks after breaking a bone in his leg, Alberto is back. He says he’s not riding for GC, but will try to win a stage in the final week. I believe him! Contador will not feature in the GC battle.

What of Chris Horner? Now 42 years old and back in good form, after a serious road accident, earlier in the year. 17th in the Tour and a very credible 2nd in the Tour of Utah. The amount of TT kilometres, also goes against him. It will be very, very hard for him to retain his title.

Valverde arrives with form. He looked dead on his feet, in the Tour, but won San Sebastian. There is no pressure on Alejandro, as all eyes are on Quintana. This will help him, as he’ll get a little more freedom than usual. A podium spot will be in his eyes! He was 2nd in 2012 and 3rd in 2013, he usually makes the podium in this race. Like Rodriguez, there are a number of stages that suit him well.

Uran was the second best rider in the Giro. He looked to find some form in the Tour de l’Ain and arrives with a whole team, ready to support him. He flies under the radar, despite his brilliant performances in the Giro. Due to the number of top riders here, Uran, will be allowed more freedom than usual. However, he’s never did a good Vuelta, 27th is his best in 3 attempts.

Fabio Aru had a great Giro. At just 24 years old, I think it’s too much to expect a repeat performance, in the Vuelta.

Dan Martin is a different case all together. His season has been disrupted by injury, forcing him to abandon the Giro, on the streets of Belfast. His early season form was good, with a 2nd place in Flèche Wallone. He has recently completed the Tour of Austria, San Sebastian and Tour de l’Ain, where he finished 3rd. His form, seems to be peaking at the right time. In the past 5 editions of the Vuelta, one of the podium positions has been filled by a rider who didn’t do another grand tour. His 10km in Belfast, doesn’t count for me! Dan Martin is one to keep an eye on.

There’s a massive amount of quality riders here, who could all challenge for a top 10 spot: Kelderman, Barguil, Sanchez, Moreno, Gesink, Niemiec, Landa, Hesjedal, Chaves, Nieve, Evans, Arredondo, Navarro, Kangert, Zubeldia and Monfort.

Then we have the riders who say their just here for stages, like Pinot and Van Den Broeck.

Talansky rides but in support of others, so I don’t expect much from him.

The sprint stages should be better than last year. The lack of true sprinters, in 2013, turned the sprints into a laughing stock. This year we have Bouhanni, Debusschere, Degenkolb, Hofland and Sagan. For the first time ever, I think Sagan will not be a threat. He’s trying to build for the Worlds and will be lacking some racing. We have some quality sprinters and good lead-out riders, so we should get proper sprints, this year.

Prediction time…

Quintana to win and Dan Martin to podium.

David Hunter

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