The Vuelta a Espana starts this week and the big news is that Chris Froome has confirmed he will be taking part. This means he could go for a mighty Tour and Vuelta in the same year. Only two others have done it.
Froome has won four Tour de Frances in five years but has finished second in the Vuelta on three occasions. Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil are the monsters of the sport with both in one year under their belt.
The Vuelta is notoriously one of the toughest grand tours if not the toughest. After what was a relatively mild Tour de France it looks even worse on closer inspection. There are 9 hilltop finishes which is set up for some of the biggest riders to battle it out.
It all starts with a team time trial on the 19th of August and concludes in Madrid on the 10th of September. Froome is favourite with the bookmakers and certainly seems up for it, “I’ve come second three times now and I’d love to win the Vuelta. To win the Tour and the Vuelta in one year would be incredible. I’ve got that opportunity now and I’m certainly going to go for it.”
There is no doubting the Brit’s ability but he is coming off the back of a Tour de France. He also is very much a time trial weighted GC rider and so the mountainous nature of the Vuelta is playing out of his favour. Although Froome is still one of the best climbers. Froome is at 1/1 with Betway.
His nearest rivals are Italian Vincenzo Nibali at 3/1 and home nation favourite Alberto Contador at 8/1. Nibali did not race the Tour and will be much fresher because of it. Contador had an exciting Tour but looked a shadow of his former self despite trying as much as he could on the climbs. Out of these two nearest rivals, it has to be Nibali as the most likely to upset Froome with fresher legs and and a team that is very much focused on his efforts.
There are some surprising long odds that might interest the real enthusiasts out there. Johan Chaves is at 25/1 but considering this is a man who finished on the podium in 2015 it might be worth a punt. For me, the most interesting rider to catch my eye is Rigoberto Uran. The Colombian was suspiciously quiet on the tour almost trying to conserve himself for something while still getting on the podium. He is more acclimatised to a Vuelta and with his time trialling better than some of the other contenders he just might achieve his first grand tour win. At 30 he is a perfect age and I think this just might have been his plan all along. His price at 22/1 should be enough for me to convince you either way.
The Vuelta is one of my favourite races as they have no issue with putting riders through hell to wear the red jersey. This year is no different and after a lacklustre Tour cycling needs an exciting end to the season. Definitely worth a watch as well as a bet or two.