Monday, August 15, 2011

UPDATED 15/08 - Quick look at the favorites & outsiders for the Vuelta

With less than two weeks to the start of this year’s Vuelta a España, I think it’s time to take a quick glance at the favorites and outsiders for the final podium in Madrid.

Chances are that I forgot a few, my apologies. Anyway here goes the overview. Feel free to leave a comment stating if you agree or not. Thanks! 

I have decided to update this post regularly and to make it easier to find the latest added riders, their names will be written in red.

Big time winner favorites:
Igor Antón – Best rider last year before his crash. Ready to get revenge when the race visits his Basque home soil.

Purito Rodriguez – Best climber when the percentages rise above 10. Probably spend too much energy on getting the red jersey for the stage in Catalunya last year. Paid for his effort on the time trial.

Janez Brajkovic – Showed last year in Dauphiné how great he can climb. Has a lot to show the world after his early exit in the Tour.

Vincenzo Nibali – Outraced the pure climbers like Purito and Mosquera last year, finally keeping his head cool at all time. Another long ITT in his favor this year.

Solid podium contenders:
Denis Menchov – Missed out in the Giro, but everybody knows what he is capable of. Will have the strongest of all teams to help him.

Jurgen Van den Broeck – Seemed to be in the shape of his life before crashing out of the Tour. Could fight for the overall win if he shows the same strength in the Vuelta.

Bradley Wiggins – Pretty much the same story as above...

Michele Scarponi – Showed in the Giro that he is one of the strongest uphill. Could be a serious contender for the overall win if he gets his impulsive counter-attacks under control.

Andreas Klöden – The big joker. One of the strongest in the Tour before his crash. Think he will either top of flop…

Nicolas Roche – Got his Tour ruined by the crash in Dauphiné. Has shown he is stable enough to do better than “just top10” in the Grand Tours.

Thiago Machado – Failed his first big test in the Giro, but I believe he has what it takes to do Top10 in the a Grand Tour. Won't be easy with both Klöden and Brajko to work for tho...

Fabio Duarte – Would probably have surprised quite a few in the Giro without his knee injury. Be prepared to see this little Columbian rider up with the best in the mountains. Will have to ride for Menchov, without that; podium is possible.

Mikel Nieve – Right hand and last man for Igor Antón. Showed last year in the Vuelta and this year in the Giro that he has what it takes to win in the big mountains.

Andrey Kasheckin – Former top3 in the Vuelta back in the happy Astana days. Now he is back with Astana, ready to show that Lampre made the wrong decision when leaving him out of the Tour. He says he can do Top5 - let's see...

Luisle Sanchez – Should be the front figure of the Rabobank team. Aims big at the Vuelta, but he always has one bad day…

Daniel Moreno – Purito’s best man in the mountains. Has showed his strength many times in the Grand Tours and proved in Burgos that he is right where he should be!

Carlos Sastre – If Carlos is taking part in the Grand Tour, you can’t rule him out of the top10 before the race starts. I doubt he will make much noise, but I sure hope I’m wrong in this case.

Juanjo Cobo – Another Geox rider with Top10 potential. Showed in Burgos that he is ready!

Ezequiel Mosquera – I know...But the guy still ended 2nd last year! One of the best climbers and he never has an off-day. Still the chances of Eze being at the start in Benidorm seems “not very likely*”.

Chris Anker Sørensen - Being Danish myself, of course I have to mention Team SaxoBank's Vuelta-leader. According to himself he aims at a spot among the best in the GC, but I'm pretty sure he rather wants stage win in the mountains than securing 9th place..

Jakob Fuglsang - Another Dane, I know...but Jakob Fuglsang is still the best GC-rider LeopardTrek brings to the Vuelta this time. About time Jakob gets his own chance in a Grand Tour. I think he can do top10 without any bad luck.

David Bernabeu - Spanish veteran. Don't be surprised if good old Bernabeu will up there with the 15 bests in the last week. Solid a rock!

Rein Taaramae - Great climber and time trialist. Came close to a top10 spot in the Tour. Normally not a big fan of the hot weather, which could put a very likely place in the top10 in danger...

Steven Kruijswijk - Gifted young climber. Outstading performances in the Giro and Tour de Suisse. One of many possible top10 candidates Rabobank brings to the Vuelta. Barredo, Slagter, LLS.

Wout Poels - Got his Tour de France ruined by a crash before they hit the mountains for real. Has been showing great climber legs all year long, time to make it count this time?

* I was told by Vacansoleil-DCM press officer Ard Bierens on the 8th of August.

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