Vuelta Power Rankings

 Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

This year’s Vuelta start list is huge, with several big names backing up from Le Tour of the Giro. And with no hints of a Team Sky train capable of dominating the race, this is set to be a wild three weeks. It’s a legitimate question; is the Vuelta the best Grand Tour of the year? We’ll find out over the next three weeks, but with an enormous list of contenders and a wild route planned, there’s every chance it will be. Heading into the race, here are our Power Rankings of who to watch over the next three weeks.

 

15. Fabio Aru

The filthiest man on two wheels is a past winner of this race, so we better include him but there’s not a whole lot to see here folks.

14. Vincenzo Nibali

The shark was the one that got bitten on Alpe d’Huez, as crowd troubles saw him end up on the ground with a fractured Vertebrae. It’s an unknown whether he’ll have the form to challenge here; he was certainly looking good at Le Tour, but in recent days has publicly mused about struggling. It’s likely his main aim is to build form for the World Championships in September, but it would be unlike him to not pop up somewhere.

13. Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde comes to Le Tour likely in support of others on his team. At Le Tour, we saw a Valverde that doesn’t have the same punch as in recent years, whether that’s because of the brutal leg injury he suffered last year, or merely father time is finally catching up with him. Expect him to do better here though, there aren’t as many stages with multiple long climbs, and the finishes are a bit punchier.

12. Michael Woods

Canada’s Michael Woods started the Giro well, but slowly fell away in the second half of the Giro as he struggled with sickness. Last week’s Tour of Utah was his first outing since the Giro, and he was reasonable, finishing in ninth place overall. He was seventh here last year and should be consistent again.

 Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

11. Michal Kwiatkowski

Kwiato is one of those guys who you’ve always wanted to see if he could make a go of riding GC. In Le Tour, he was super impressive for Team Sky, with only Bernal, Froome and Thomas behind him in the chain of command. It’s the best climbing form we’ve seen yet from a man who can do almost anything. In the break since Le Tour, he won the overall and two stages at his home race the Tour of Poland, so he’s stomping right now. How he performs will be one of the more interesting points of the race.

10. Adam Yates

Having dropped out of the running for a good GC spot early on, you wouldn’t call Adam Yates’ Tour a success. But he was a consistent feature in breakaways in the third week, showing he was in decent nick by the end of the race. He’s punchy like his brother, and if his form’s continued to rise, he can cause major trouble here on the steep finales.

9. Wilco Kelderman

Wilco was slated to ride Le Tour until he crashed in the Dutch National Championships and reinjured a shoulder he has broken earlier in the year. Hence this is his first Grand Tour of the year, so he’ll come in a bit fresher than most of his rivals. Last year he was fourth here, so we’ve seen he can be a podium contender and there’s no reason he can’t be one again.

8. Thibaut Pinot

Like many in the Giro, Pinot was headed for a good result until a hellish final week broke him. Pneumonia and exhaustion saw him take an extended break until he finished third in last week’s Tour of Poland. There are always questions about whether Pinot can compete for the entirety of a three week Tour, and those are again present. A lack of descents into the finish will aid the notoriously poor descender, and while you can’t doubt his talent, it would be pretty brave to back him to podium here at the Vuelta.

 

 Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

7. George Bennett

Bennett’s Top 10 at the Giro was another good result for a LottoNL-Jumbo squad that’s been competitive all year long. He’ll be part of another strong team here, as Bennett co-leads with Steven Kruijswijk. That’s an aggressive tandem, and the New Zealander will be visible over the coming three weeks.

6. Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran pulled out of Le Tour after a crash on the Roubaix stage cruelled his chances. You forget about old Rigo as a contender, but don’t forget he was second at Le Tour last year. A mountain goat through and through, this course is pretty good for him if he’s recovered properly.

5. Miguel Angel Lopez

The Giro’s Best Young Rider and third place getter returns to the site of his breakthrough Grand Tour, where he collected eighth last year. He was hugely impressive in the Giro, riding consistently throughout the whole race. A second grand tour in a year will test the 24-year old, but he’s in the running for a stage, and the top favourite to win another Young Rider Prize.

4. Simon Yates

Don’t look at Simon Yates’ overall placing in the Giro, look at the GC at the end of Stage 18. Sure, you don’t win anything for leading a grandie after 18 days except a few pink shirts to give your Nan, but he was realistically within two days of winning that race. This Vuelta suits him perfectly with a huge number of punchy finishes, and you get the feeling he’s not far off winning one.

3. Steven Kruijswijk

The only thing bigger than Steven Kruijswijk’s shoulders is his spirit, and he’ll be bringing both to Spain. He and tag team partner Primoz Roglic were both excellent in the final week of Le Tour, and Kruijswijk earned his fifth place overall. He’s chasing that maiden Grand Tour podium though, and as hit-and-miss, as he’s been over his career, the form he showed a month ago should hold in in good stead.

2. Richie Porte

Another year, another Tour cruelled by injury for Porte. The bright side? It was ‘only’ a collarbone, and he could soon jump on the turbo to chase a few end-of-season goals like this very race. His June form was as good as Geraint Thomas’ as he won the Tour de Suisse, and his absence was notable in the finals mountain stages when there weren’t many contenders capable or willing to throw everything at the Welshman. He’ll be on the hunt for revenge here, and if whatever curse has been haunting him has worn off, you’d be brave to tip against him making the podium.

1. Nairo Quintana

The Colombian didn’t have a great Tour. He was scarcely seen at the front of the race aside from his race-saving victory on the 65km Stage 17. But it was a Tour where he seemed to come out the end with a fair bit left in the tank. With so many summit finishes and only 40km of time trialling, the route suits him, and he’s our top favourite at this year’s Vuelta.

 

Joshua Duggan