The spate of high-profile injuries that marred this year’s Tour de France stand to benefit La Vuelta a Espana.
Although the 2008 and 2012 Vuelta Champion, Alberto Contador, and the 2010 Points Classification winner, Mark Cavendish, have been ruled out of this year’s race through injuries sustained in Le Tour, the field looks at its strongest for years.
And Alejandro Valverde has similarly assured us of his participation in his home tour despite succumbing to injury in France.
The reigning Giro champion, Nairo Quintana, is set to be well rested for the Vuelta after sitting out the Tour de France, and the 2014 field also includes the home favourite, Joaquim Rodriguez; the Australian 2011 Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans; and the reigning Vuelta champion, Chris Horner.
Speculation persists, meanwhile, that the 2014 Tour de France winner, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, may yet decide to take up his position on the start line in Spain.
The criteria employed to rank these riders is, of course, subjective. However, those on the list are here based on past Grand Tour (specifically Vuelta) form as well as on performances in races regarded to exhibit similar conditions to the Vuelta.
The riders’ 2014 form and their current fitness status has also been a significant factor in determining where I rank their chances of winning.
In this light, honourable mention should go to a handful of real contenders for the Red Jersey who did not make the top five but who could pose a real threat in the race: Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick); Sergio Henao (Team Sky); Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale); Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp); and Fabio Aru (Astana).
Here are the best five picks for this year’s Vuelta a Espana.