Bring it on

Hours before the start of the 65th edition (and 75th anniversary) of the Vuelta a Espana, I’m all set and raring to go. Unusually, there’s no pile of laundry to keep me occupied when I’ll be whiling away my afternoons in front of the television. No, I’m going to be sorting out my dressing room, all the drawers and cupboards in the lounge and dining room and rearranging my collection of cookery books. If you’ve visited my apartment you’ll know that these are all mammoth tasks befitting a three-week Tour.

Many more gifted than me have previewed at length the fancied riders and the stages. I’m not going to add to this. Instead, you’ll get, as usual, my take on things: less objective, more subjective. A consensus seems to have built up around perm any three from Nibali/Menchov/Mosquera/the Schlecks/Arroyo/LL Sanchez/Sastre/Rodriguez.

The Vuelta organisers were hoping to tempt Contador to his home Tour and devised a  parcours which would suit him. As he’s shown, it’s possible to do the Giro/Vuelta double, but it’s much more difficult to double up with the Tour de France. It’s not so much the racing itself more the mental demands. In addition, he had concerns over the quality of his support. Valid concerns if you look at the Astana team sheet. My favourite Spanish rider, Samu Sanchez will also be missing, as will last year’s winner, Alejandro Valverde, who’s on an enforced sabbatical. As a consequence, Inigo Cuesta, of the soon to be defunct Cervelo Test Team, riding his 17th consecutive Vuelta, will be honoured with the No 1.

While it’s rare for there to be surprises on the podium of a Grand Tour, I am hoping that maybe either Igor Anton or Benat Intxausti, both from Euskaltel-Euskadi, will shine in their home tour. It’s also an opportunity to look out for talent of the future (Tony Gallopin and Arthur Vichot) and talent that’s shone over the past two seasons, to shine more brightly (Tejay Van Garderen and Ben Swift). Of course, there will also be a whole host of riders, without contracts for next season, looking to catch the eye of a Directeur Sportif or two. And, let’s not forget, a whole slew of sprinters, in fact pretty much everyone bar every girl’s favourite bad boy, Tom Boonen, who’ll be battling for supremacy over a possible 8 sprint stages, ahead of the World Championships in Melbourne.

So, stand by your television sets for this evening’s 13km team time trial around Sevilla. Footon-Servetto are off first with teams going at four minute intervals. Local team, Andalucia-CajaSur, will go last. SaxoBank have the advantage of going after other potential winners HTC-Columbia, Garmin-Transitions and (remember the Giro), Liquigas. I do not anticipate any decisive time gaps.

While the first week is uncharacteristically hilly, the key stages are at the back end of the Vuelta: specifically, Stage 15 on 12 September to Lagos de Covadonga, Stage 16 to Cortobello, Stage 17’s 46km pancake flat ITT at Penafiel and, the penultimate test, Stage 20 to Bola del Mundo.

My pick for the podium: 1-Menchov, 2-Nibali, 3-(F) Schleck

Climber’s Jersey: Moncoutie

Point’s Jersey: Cavendish

Combined Jersey: Mosquera

5 thoughts on “Bring it on

  1. Hi Sheree. It was an interesting spectacle, wasn’t it? And a great example of tight teamwork by Columbia – a real contrast to the way Saxo Bank stumbled across the finish.

    Apparently some of the riders have complained about racing at night, and there were a couple of crashes (Julian Dean was one, I believe).

    Cav will definitely win stages, but I wonder if he will climb off before the tough mountains in the final week, saving his legs for the Worlds in Geelong?

    For what it’s worth, my 1-2-3 is the opposite of yours: Frank-Nibali-Menchov. Regardless, it should be fun!

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  2. Tim

    If you’ve ever ridden at night, you’ll understand some of the riders concerns. However, I thought it was an exciting and fitting start to the Vuelta. The crowds certainly enjoyed it too.

    Given that there’s two weeks between the end of the Vuelta and the men’s road race in Geelong, I thought Cav might hang on in there if he had the points jersey. In any event, I’ll be in Geelong to cheer him on.

    At least we agree on Nibali!

    I’m looking forward to reading your posts on the Vuelta.

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    1. The Columbia management agree with your assessment of the timing. If Cav’s in good form and is in contention for the jersey, I agree he’ll probably keep going. But if he or any of the other top sprinters are struggling, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some withdrawals.

      You’ll be in Geeling? Very jealous!

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