For the final grand tour of the year, I’ll do a team-by-team overview of this years Vuelta Espania. With all the teams now announced for La Vuelta my Startlist preview will attempt to break-down each team, pick out a few individual riders and make some race predictions. I’m actively trying to make a few more left field choices rather than a more conservative approach I’ve had in earlier blogs.
All images of teams from www.procyclingstats.com
Can Froome back up his Tour victory with finally claiming his first Vuelta, Where will his biggest challenge come from, and how will Bertie’s final grant tour play out?
BORA – hansgrohe
At the beginning of the year it seemed Bora would have a three pronged Majka to have a crack at the Giro, Sagan for the Tour’s green jersey and Leopold Konig to race the Vuelta. The plan hasn’t exactly worked, despite Majka missing the Giro. Sagan DQ from the Tour is now famous and Majka eventually abandoned the Tour. To round it off Konig has continued to suffer with ongoing injuries and will miss the Vuelta. Bora first season however will have to be counted a succsess with Bora in fact wearing Pink in Italy with a surprise victory for Lukas Postleberger on stage one (how long ago does that seem!), a stage for Sagan at the Tour plus Maciej Bodnar’s TT stage victory in Marsielle.
Now for the Vuelta, Majka leads the team with support from Emmanuel Buchmann, Cesare Benedatti, Patrick Konrad and ‘the veins of Paris’ Pawel Poljanski. Bora’s team is also made up of Michale Kolar and Michael Schwarzman who may get involved on the flatter stages of La Vuelta.
Majka to finish top 10, possibley a stage if he is far enough down the GC. (He may go Barguil) I just don’t think he has the team to support a podium challenge against the likes of AG2R and Sky.
Team Katusha – Alpecin
Ilnur Zakarin’s team is built to fully support the Russian. He will be going for a top five finish and will be helped by Taarmae, Mamykin, Losado and Goncalves. The Katusha team forumla may change next year with the Marcel Kittel factory. As Katusha will un-doubtedly get more exposure and therefore scrutiny. This could be a perfect chance for Zakarin to kick start his career as more attention from the cycling world casts its eye over Katusha’s team roster. For this Vuelta I think Zakarin, will fall into the category of climbers such as Majka, Jungels, Kelderman, Costa who are world class riders but do not have the quality or team support to get on the podium.
Zakarin top 5 finish
Can Froome do it! Can he add a Vuelta too his four Tour de France victories. Having finished second three times and fourth in 2012. Froome’s Vuellta career has run parallel to his Tour de France career to prove he is human. He will be assisted by Wout Poels, David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Gianni Moscon and Diego Rosa in the mountains. Which is as strong as the team which helped him in the three weeks in France. He will also be assisted on the flats Ian ‘Yogi’ Stannard, Christian Knees & Salvatore Puccio on the flat and transitional stages. Although Froome is the king of Team Sky, I think the key-man to Team Sky’s team is Wout Poels. If he is fully recovered from injury and can replicate similar form to the 2016 Tour performance, I can’t see past a Froome Victory. I think Poels is brilliant on and off the bike (check out some of Sky’s promo for the Vuelta).
Sky to win stage one’s TTT
Froome Overall victory
Impressive Vuelta performance from Gianni Moscon
BMC Racing Team
It looks like BMC will be lead by Damiano Caruso or Tejay Van Garderen. Although I would be surprised to see either of these riders higher than 10th. The squad does hover look a little more favourable to break away and solo victories; De Marchi, Roche, and indeed Van Garderen have showed in the past they can take grand tour stage victories when given a free role. Rohan Dennis may also be allowed some freedom in preparation t a GC lead career in the future. Another ride rot look out for is Sideshow Bob’s long lost Italian cousin Daniel Oss. The team however will of been shocked to loose Samuel Sanchez to a failed drug test, in which was earmarked to be his farewell Vuelta.
A stage victory for BMC
Daniel Oss to get in some moves
Lotto NL Jumbo are going into this tour with out a great deal of people talking about them. However I think they can have a really strong Vuelta. George Bennet looks very impressive in the Tour before his abandonment, and he will like up alongside Steven Kruijswijk & Stef Clement. I think they will kick the tour off with a strong TTT. The team looks set up for Kruijswijk and the man who came so close to winning the Giro last year may be enjoying his Vuelta preparation going un-noticed. He will either be added by New-Zealander Bennett, or the team could use Bennett as the second prong to a double header GC attack. I think this is more likely and teams will not be able to allow Bennett to much time after his impressive showing in France. The Vuelta doesn’t offer a great deal for sprinter, hence most of the big names giving it a miss (baring Degenkolb). Lotto NL Jumbo bring the strangest signing of 2017 Juan Jose Lobato, he will be their for the flat stages and may just be able tot take his maiden Grand Tour stage.
Bennett to win a stage
Lobato to win a stage
What, How, When and Why? Chaves, Adam and Simon Yates could be leading a GC threat for alone, so to have all three in one team will be ..interesting? I think with Simon coming off the back of the Tour as did Chaves, althoguh you will be forgiven if you didn’t realise he way there. If Chaves is still not up to his best you could se the ORICA boys go to work for Adam. Who I think could find himself finishing on the podium. Carlos Verona may find the odd break and expected Magnus Cort Nielson to go free-wheeling in the flat stages.
Adam Yates to podium
Magnus Cort Nielson to get a flat stage victory.
Trek – Segafredo
Last through of the dice for Bertie. Contador attempts the Vuelta with Trek for the first time with support from Irizar, Barnard, Hernandez, Jarlison Pantano, Stetina. I started watching Contador after his doping ban, so I’ve always watched Contador with the tag of being a ‘drug cheat’. Nevertheless I have really enjoyed watching Contador and his instinctive artistry on the bike. He seems to be a ride who attacks on instinct and not a calculated rider who tracks stats and figures, he just goes when his body says go! I think he will be a lose to cycling and he will hopefully be able to help the next generation of cyclists with his development team. Also on the Trek roster is John Degenkolb, who I think will fair well and seems to be the only real first division sprinter. He seems to be back on the mend after his horror crash on a training ride wiped out most of last year. He will be up there on the true flats, although he will not have the full teams support and may suffer from the ‘sprints’ getting messy. Edward Theuns may also be given the chance to sprint if an injury occurs to Dege or he is feeling the affects of back-to-back grand tours.
Contador to animate the race in the last week, but untimely finish between 5th-10th
Degenkolb to win at least 2+ stages.
This race is all about the people’s champion Thomas De Gendt! After being robbed of the combatively award at the tour the Belgian will be on the look out to do the same in the Tour, but hopefully pick up a KOM classification, stages and even more fans. The team also includes evergreen Aussie Adam Hansen. He was left out of the initial roster but injury to teammate Rafael Valls led to Adam Hansen being called in to start his record 19th consecutive grand tour.
DeGendt to finish second to Omar Freile in the KOM.
Red and white to be in them breaks!
Aqua Blue Concept
We all hope the luck of the Irish (sorry!) to help everyones favourite team get a stage victory and animate the job. The team brings some quality riders who can compete over several fronts. Stefan Denifl and Captain America Larry Warbasse will go for KOM points and stage victories in the mountains. On the more transitional break-away stages riders such as Lasse Norman Hansen and the tallest cyclist alive Connor Dunne will go for victory and get the much coveted TV air time. Finally former British road champion Adam Blythe will compete on the flat stages. COME ON AQUA
Blythe to get a top three stage finish
Connor Dunne to get in some of the flatter breakaways
Warbasse stage victory 🙂
Astana Pro Team
Fabio Aru will look to go for the Vuelta title after an initial impressive showcase at the Tour before dropping form due to illness and losing key team-mates. Aru will be able to call on Chernetckii, De Vreese, Stanlov, Hansen and Lutsenko for more regular domestique duties. He will also have air to the throne Miguel Angel Lopez for key support in the mountains, where he will also be able to call on the aid of spaniard Pello Bilbao. Astana will also have Luis Leon Sanchez who you believe will be given a more free role to go for break stages, KOM classification and possibly even solo on flatter terrain.
Luis Leon to challenge De Gendt for breaks and KOM mileage.
A stage in for Astana.
I don’t know anything about Manaza Postobon, apart from they probably have some brilliant Colombian in their midst.
AG2R La Mondiale
Bardet’s second chance. But ultimately I think he may suffer in La Vuelta and struggle. He brings a strong team and if Ag2R adopt the same tactics as they did in the Tour, which came so close to breaking the Team Sky stranglehold. He will be able to call on Domenico Pozzovivo for aid but I just feel he gave everything in France and will have little left. Hope I am wrong as I am a big fan of Bardet.
Bardet not to finish.
Every year at the Vuelta Caja Rural rock up, and get in breaks. I think we all know we can expect the same. All eyes will be on Movistar bound Jamie Roson. It is a great platform to impress his future employees, and hopefully he can stay in contact with some big GC moves or animate the race from bigger breaks.
Jamie Roson to make a statement to Movistar.
Dimension Data will be in this for the stages, Igor Anton, Ben King, Merwhawi Kudus, Lachlan Morton and Serge Pauwels will go for it! Not to mention king of the Spanish mountains Omar Freile. Omar loves the KOM competition in La Vuelta.
Omar Freile to win the KOM … again
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Daniel Navarro and Luis Angel Mate will lead the team of predominately french riders around Spain and the spaniards will probably lead the charge for stage and GC ambitions. I also expect the Turgis brothers to get involved in breaks on the flatter stages.
Navarro top 15.
Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team
Cannondale bring another versatile squad to the Vuelta. Climbers Canty, Woods, Clarke, Dombrowski, Skujins, Villella will be on a stage victory mission. A special shout out to Tom Skujins a firm Inside Peloton favourite, and I wish him the best of luck for the next three weeks. Tom Van Asbroeck may also get involved in the four flatter stages.
Joe Dombrowski to impress and get a stage.
Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team
Bahrain are back after a disaster Tour with Nibali at the helm. He is however without some of his key mountain domestiques, which has ben highlighted in a number of interviews and articles.This however should not dampen the threat to Chris Froome from Vincenzo. He is a brilliant GC rider who can climb, descend and time-trial. He also has a strong history of producing a very strong third week time-trial. I fully expect the Bahrain Merida team to be fully focussed on Nibali’s GC attempt. the only rider who may be animated in the race is Spaniard Ivan Garcia Cortina, I believe until injury he was not included in the initial squad for the race until injuries hit, so may be allowed to focus on breaks and even the flat stages. With no strong sprint teams and the strongest sprinter of the race not having a full team to support him, you may see un-controlled sprint trains and the chance for solo riders to take victories.
Nibali to finish second.
FDJ are without there two main team leaders in DeMare and Pinot and therefore blood a young team, featuring many french riders. The team may make a lot of breaks and possibly might get to work for young demi-sprinter Lorenzo Manzin.
FDJ to be in the breaks.
This seems like the first race since forever when Movistar haven’t been lead at a grand tour by either Alejandro Valverde or Nairo. With Mikel Landa’s arrival next year the team may use this race to test out a few of their lesser exposed riders. The rider I am most excited to watch is Marc Soler. He looked imperious aiding Valverde at the Volta Catalunya earlier in the year. The team also contains Daniel Moreno who in the last 10 years has always finished between 5-12 position. He has taken part in nine Vuelta’s between 2007-2016). Another rider worth a mention is Carlos Betancur. Who may favour from a less structured team direction, he could get involved in the inevitable super-breaks.
Soler to finish top 10
Dan Moreno to finish outside the top 15 for the first time in a decade
Betancur to go on numerous adventures.
UAE Team Emirates
Surprisingly this is Rui Costa’s Vuelta debut, how?? The UAE emirates team will make it’s Vuelta first appearance and will take Rui Costa, Louis Meintjes and Darwin Atapuma to this years race. It is unclear how the race will unfold for UAE and how Meintjes & Costa will co-operate. Unless the team is fully focused on stage victory. UAE also bring Sacha Modolo who is probably the second best sprinter coming to La Vuelta.
Rui Costa to win a stage
Quickstep will enter this years Vuelta with Bob Jungels for GC, Trentin for the flat stages and a number of riders for individual stage victories. The riders who could go for individual glory will be Julian Alaphilippe, Enric Mas, Tim DeClerq, Yves Lampaerts, Niki Terpstra, Sky bound David De La Cruz and Matteo Trentin. Bob Jungels will be looking for a top 10. The interesting rider in Quickstep’s roster is frnehcman Julian Alaphillipe. Will he go for stage vicotires, test himself for a high GC finish or even possibly try to mix it up on the sprint stages.
Alaphillipe to win a stage
Jungels top 10.
Matteo Trentin to win a stage.
I hope you enjoyed the blog. I only really do this for myself and as you can probably tell, i’m not the most talented word-smith. But if you enjoyed the blog please feel free to drop me a tweet @Matt_Russell_92.
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