Grand tours over the past few years have been a tale of British dominance from start to finish but a Colombian might be able to break the mould in the Vuelta Espana in the shape of Miguel Angel Lopez.
The 24-year-old is at the beginning his Grand Tour career, but he rode well beyond his years last season when finishing eighth on his first serious attempt at a three-week endeavour. He won two stages whilst also finishing second, beating the other classification contenders La Pandera, and his only fault was a crack on the Angliru that cost him two places.
He has naturally improved and was third in the Giro D’Italia in the spring behind only Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin, taking the white jersey along with a spot on the podium to show his further progress and whilst he’s prodigiously young for a Grand Tour contender, cycling betting fans should note that he looks ready here.
His only weakness looks to be time trialling, but the mountains win more often than not in the Vuelta and that should be the case once again with seven summit finishes and he did not perform terribly against the clock in the Giro, losing a minute to most of his climbing rivals.
Astana sent Pello Bilbao, Jan Hirt, Tanel Kangert, Andrey Zeits, Luis Leon Sanchez, Davide Villella, and Alexey Lutsenko to the Giro and it’s likely that they could all return once again here to aid his challenge. 16/1 at Paddy Power looks a very large each/way price for the rider who should be both fittest and freshest of their team.
Froome and Dumoulin – arguably the two best Grand Tour racers in the world - are absent having attempted the Giro-Tour double, and the field has an incredibly open look to it.
Vincenzo Nibali was taken out of the tour by a reckless fan and police motorbike, meaning he’s had to have surgery on his vertebrae, Mikel Landa is absent it following a serious fall in Clasica San Sebastian, and Nairo Quintana was feeling the effects of a crash at the end of a disappointing tour, which means that Movistar could end up relying on Richard Carapaz, who Lopez beat by 47 seconds at the Giro.
Favourite Richie Porte is on a comeback mission after breaking his collarbone in the Tour and on the form he’d showed in the leadup he’d be a rightful favourite, but he’s 7/4 and will not have the same support that BMC would have sent to the Tour, along with the fact his form level is going to be an unknown. There looks to be no upside to his price despite his considerable talent.
Geraint Thomas has deservedly taken his foot off the pedal following a brilliant Tour win and is not set to start, whilst neither of Lotto-NL’s dynamic duo of Primoz Roglic or Stephen Kruijswijk are set to start the race. Michal Kwiatkowski is set to race for Sky following the Tour of Poland, although he has said he’ll chase stages.
Wilco Kelderman, fourth last year, is a big threat although the injury that kept him out of the Tour is a negative and he’ll have had no racing since then.
The most appealing of the favourites is Simon Yates, who dominated the Giro until he cracked on the 18th stage. He ended up over half an hour down but he won three stages (which would have been four had he not gifted the first summit finish to Esteban Chaves) and two and a half weeks of flat out racing caught up with him.
The white jersey winner at last year’s Tour de France and sixth here two years ago, he will have learned a great deal about conserving his energy, and if in the same form then he’ll take the beating.
At a bigger price, Thibaut Pinot is interesting; He was third at the Giro before pneumonia struck, meaning he had to abandon, but he had put in a sterling effort then and a rider of his quality looks big at 28/1 with Ladbrokes given he was fourth in the Giro last year and on the podium until the very last stages.
Fabio Aru is a past winner of this race and comes here on a retiral mission after a dreadful spring when he struggled through the Giro and eventually withdrawal. He is much shorter than Pinot, but worth keeping onside as the steep gradients of the Vuelta really suit him, as shown by his 2015 victory.