The 2021 Vuelta a España starts in just over a week with Ineos Grenadiers hoping to bounce back from a meagre Tour de France and win their second Grand Tour of the campaign. In Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates, the British team have a trio of potential winners as they look to end Primož Roglič’s (Jumbo-Visma) two-year reign.
Cyclingnews has learned the full Ineos 13-rider long list as of early this week, and while a few riders are set to miss out with the Tour de Pologne overlapping, there are still a number of key decisions facing the Ineos management.
Vuelta pedigree: Three-time finisher but this will be his first Grand Tour since leaving Team BikeExchange.
Yates has raced relatively sparingly in his maiden season for Ineos Grenadiers but when he has been utilized on team duties he has risen to the challenge with second in the UAE Tour followed up by a win in the Vuelta a Catalunya and fourth in the Basque Country. He has raced just two days since the Ardennes, but the Vuelta a Burgos will allow the British climber to fine-tune his form before the Vuelta, where he will either ride as a leader or in the support of Bernal. Either way, Yates will be a formidable asset over the three weeks assuming he has no lingering injuries from his stage 1 fall in Burgos.
Vuelta pedigree: This will be his first start.
The Giro d’Italia win in May was a reminder of the Colombian’s ability and that talk of his demise owing to last year’s Tour de France performance was wide of the mark. He still doesn’t look as complete or as impregnable as Roglič or Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and if there’s 40km of time trialling in a Tour then he’ll immediately be on the back foot, but this year’s Vuelta has enough mountainous terrain to give Bernal the edge if Roglič does indeed show up with his A-game. The pay per view Bernal-Roglič-Pogačar card will have to wait until next year, with the UAE rider set to put his feet up but Bernal has the chance to complete his Grand Tour set at the age of 24, and with a stacked team, and his legs fresh, he should be vying for the red jersey all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
Vuelta pedigree: DNF in 2018, his first Grand Tour.
It’s been a disappointing season thus far for the young Russian. He abandoned the Giro d’Italia in May after coming into a bit of form just before the race and his Vuelta slot will involve him working for Bernal in the mountains. That’s not quite what the 24-year-old would have hoped for at the start of the year but his crashes and the sheer depth at Ineos ensure that anyone who slips at a Grand Tour – even Bernal – finds himself dropping down the pecking order. For the Vuelta, Sivakov needs to concentrate on his race, finding a rhythm over three weeks and putting in a consistent performance that isn’t hampered by crashes. Do that, support Bernal, and he can go into the winter to reset before deciding his next step. If fit and healthy he remains an incredible talent.
Vuelta pedigree: This will be his first Grand Tour.
The young British rider, and mountain bike Olympic gold medalist, is set to make his long-awaited Grand Tour debut later this month at the Vuelta. Expectations, no matter the event - or Pidcock’s experience – are always high and it will be fascinating to watch the 22-year-old find his feet in three-week racing. His fine win in last year’s Baby Giro demonstrated his climbing ability but honestly, it’s impossible to determine how far he can go at this point in his career. As with Remco Evenepoel at the Giro this year it will be gripping viewing throughout. Assuming Bernal takes up the mantle of team leader, Pidcock will slot nicely into a domestique role; gain a vault of experience, and head into 2022 stronger and wiser. Don't count him out for a stage win either.
Vuelta pedigree: Two starts, one DNF.
After a slow start due to a crash at the UAE Tour in February the Colombian has cemented a position within the Ineos lineup and unless he has any major issues over stages of the Vuelta a Burgos, it’s safe to assume that the 25-year-old will be on the start line of the Vuelta. In the Giro d’Italia, he proved his worth with some key stages riding in defense of Bernal but in the Vuelta, he could be just as important when it comes to trying to crack the Giro winner’s rivals. Fifth on GC in the Giro, he’s a luxury domestique who is capable of leading a Grand Tour challenge of his own over the next few years.
Vuelta pedigree: Runner up to Roglič in 2020, effectively losing the race on bonus seconds.
Third in the Tour de France was painted as a defeat in some quarters given Ineos' investment in success over July, but the real failure was in the team’s inability to modify their tactics, hunt stage wins, and back Carapaz consistently. The rider from Ecuador was their saving grace and his perfect display in Tokyo to net gold was a reminder of just what a canny bike racer the former Giro winner can be. Now it’s a question of what’s left in the tank and if the team believes that taking Carapaz to another Grand Tour is required or if thinking long-term into 2022 is the best option. There are fresher riders in contention – although he’s proved he can do back-to-back Grand Tours. This might be a question over how confident the team is in Bernal and whether Carapaz has taken his foot off the gas and enjoyed his gold medal. If he does ride and Bernal establishes himself as the GC leader, then expect Carapaz to ride shotgun in the mountains and target stage wins. Along with Yates, this is the most powerful leading trio in the race.
Vuelta pedigree: This would be his debut.
The Irishman just has no luck whatsoever having looked on course for a Grand Tour spot for the first time since 2019, when he impressed at the Giro. Then COVID-19 struck after the Games and despite not showing any symptoms, the 24-year-old was forced to miss the Vuelta a Burgos. That basically all but ended his Vuelta hopes for another year. There’s still a slither of hope: the team might look at his training data and decide that the Irishman is worth a punt but with so many options on the table the team doesn’t need to take a risk either. There’s still plenty of racing for Dunbar to get his teeth stuck into during the second half of the year, but missing another Grand Tour is a massive blow for a rider who has more than the required talent to be on the biggest stage.
Vuelta pedigree: The Costa Rican has raced the event four times, and even won a stage in the opening TTT with Movistar back in 2014.
The veteran raced the Tour-Vuelta double in 2020 but hasn’t had a look in yet in terms of Grand Tours. He’s raced a three-week event at least once every season since 2010 so missing the Vuelta would be a major blow but his participation in the Vuelta was effectively ended by the fact that he was named in Ineos’ team for the Tour of Poland with the week-long race overlapping with the Vuelta by two days.
Vuelta pedigree: Two starts in 2013 and 2014, with one finish.
The British domestique was on the long list but like Amador was named in the Tour of Poland squad. He’s good but hasn’t yet mastered the ability to be in two places at once.
Vuelta pedigree: Yet to make his debut.
Despite interest from several teams the rider now looks set to stay an Ineos with a new contract on the table. Aside from the Classics the 24-year-old has been relatively quiet this season but his Giro outing was solid enough and if the team needs another climber to aid Bernal then he could get the nod.
Vuelta pedigree: Started and finished in 2020.
It hasn’t quite worked out for Sosa at Ineos since the protracted battle with Trek-Segafredo over his signature and all the noises coming out of the team suggest that the Colombian will leave at the end of the year. He hasn’t raced since Algarve in May, and with no Burgos on his plans, a Vuelta call-up looks highly unlikely.
Dylan Van Baarle
Vuelta pedigree: Two starts, one finish, almost won a stage in 2018.
The Dutchman has probably jumped ahead of Rowe in terms of domestique rankings but remains unsure of a Vuelta place at this point. He did race the double last year and would bring some much-needed balance to the team in terms of looking after Bernal on the flats and in the sprint stages.
Vuelta pedigree: He’s started the race six times and won a TTT with the squad back in 2016.
Puccio is a Vuelta veteran and often takes the Giro-Vuelta route before closing out his season. Like Van Baarle, the Italian remains in contention for a spot despite missing the Vuelta a Burgos, but his experience and road captain capabilities mean that he could still warrant a place in the final eight.
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