Friday, 23 August 2013

Vuelta a Espana - Stage 1 & Overall Preview

Just five weeks after Chris Froome raised his arms in triumph on the Champs-Elysees, the final grand tour of the year kicks off in the North West corner of Spain.

The Vuelta a Espana is probably the lesser of the three grand tours but it is possibly the toughest. Where the Tour de France had seven flat stages, the Vuelta has only six. 11 medium & high mountain stages in France are replaced by 13 in Spain.

The Vuelta will also see 39 mountain passes including some like the Alto de L'Angrilu, a 12.2 km long climb with an average gradient of 10.2% and a staggering maximum of 23.5%.

All in all it means a hard, tough but wide open race.

Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali leads the potential winners but has company in the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Joaquin Rodriguez, Sammy Sanchez, Carlos Betancur and Sergio Henao.

This is by no means an exhaustive list because the likes of Domenico Pozzovivo, Rigoberto Uran, Mikel Nieve, Igor Anton, Jacob Fuglsang, Bauke Mollema, Laurens Ten Dam, David Arroyo, Ivan Basso, Thibault Pinot, Dan Martin, Michele Scarponi, Roman Kreuziger and Rafal Majka are all more than capable of recording a top 10 place, or higher.

A lot will depend on riders form. Some like Valverde and Rodriguez have come out of the Tour so questions exist in whether they have kept their fitness up. Others like Betancur and Nibali haven't raced much, or in Betancur's case at all, since the Giro so may be a little race rusty to begin with.

As I sit here now I cannot pick a winner, it is that open.

It is possibly why the organisers have thrown a difficult start at the peloton. The first chance for the sprinters doesn't appear until stage six. There are summit finishes which should stretch the time gaps out and give the GC guys plenty to aim at.

It all starts though with an evening Team Time Trial over 27.4km. Last year Movistar took the honours and have come to the Vuelta with a very strong team so it would be a massive surprise to see them out of the top three.

Other potential winners will be Garmin-Sharp and Orica Green-Edge who shocked everyone by winning the TTT in the Tour.

For me though Team Saxo Tinkoff look like the boys to beat. Kreuziger, Majka, have also got a strong team behind them with the likes of Nicolas Roche, Chris Anker-Sorensen and Nicki Sorensen and should put in a very strong performance.

It will be an interesting start to what should be a fascinating tour.

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