[Text underneath was written prior to La Vuelta’s start.]
Despite wins in the Tours of Oman and Romandie, it’s not his best season to date. Didn’t start in Tirenno-Adriatico due to back problems, Critérium du Dauphiné ended in tragedy after a strong start, whilst tragedy intensified in the Tour de France. He abandoned in the cobbled stage and now it’s only the Vuelta left to restore his 2014 season – and disputably the whole Sky team season. If he is back to his 2013 form in Spain, no doubt Froome will be the man to watch. He’s got everything a Grand Tour rider should wish for: climbing skills, and he is a firm time trialist. He will be pleased the Vuelta closes with a time trial
In the 2013 Tour Nairo Quintana was the best of the rest. Skipping La Grande Boucle this season, he focused on both the Giro and Vuelta. In Italy he proved to be the strongest – by far. Not only is the 24-year old one year stronger than he was last year in France, he is more experienced as well. The abundance of tricky arrivals definitely suits him and should be a guarantee for compelling racing with both Froome and the Colombian as the main contenders. Riding for Spanish team Movistar should give him the impression he rides on home soil.
Definitely riding on home soil, the 35-year old rider from Barcelona… In advance he declared the Giro and Vuelta to be his main goals for 2014, and after crashing in Italy only one of those two was left. Purito went to the Tour de France to find his form (and to win the polka dot jersey), but lacking conviction it was no success. The veteran has only the Vuelta and the World Championships left to shine this season. His only win was in the Volta a Catalunya. Back to back with the Tour he showed some progression by finishing third in Clásica de San Sebastian.
Being injured in France after a strong pre-season, it was a bitter pill to swallow for El Pistolero. The healing was arduous but ten days prior to the start of La Vuelta 2014 he declared in a YouTube video to take his chances after all. The 2008 and 2012 winner said he expects to be in his best form in the last week and aims to win stages then and there. He doesn’t see himself compete for the GC, but it’s no secret the ambitious Spaniard always wants to win whenever he is on his bike. It argues in his favor it’s only in stage 6 the first mountains appear, so the first five days are relatively calm which should suit his healing.
Other riders to watch:
Rigoberto Uran – second in the Giro
Wilco Kelderman – 23-year old Dutchman, talented rider
Fabio Aru – just as talented as Kelderman, but 1 year his senior, finished 3rd in the Giro.
Thibaut Pinot – 24-year old French rider, finished 3rd in La Grande Boucle
Johan Esteban Chavez – 24-year old Colombian, stage winner in both Tour of California and Tour de Suisse
Carlos Betancur – another 24-year old, winner of Paris-Nice (plús two stages)
Lawson Craddock – 22 year old American climber, debuting in a Grand Tour, finished 3rd in Tour of California
Warren Barguil – another French talent, 23 years of age, twice stage winner whilst debuting in previous Vuelta
Vuelta 2014: Images and more
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