Even without defending champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the start line in Nimes on August 19, the Vuelta a Espana general classification battle is set to be as tough and exciting as ever. Cyclingnews has whittled down the potential contenders to 10 to watch.
Tour de France winner Chris Froome leads the way in the Vuelta title fight. The Team Sky rider made his breakthrough at the Spanish Grand Tour back in 2011 where he took a surprise second place. Since then, he has finished second on two more occasions as well as a fourth place and one DNF. Froome made changes to the early part of his programme this season in the hope that he could keep a little more in the tank for the Vuelta. Only time will tell if that strategy has worked.
While Froome is the logical favourite for victory, Alberto Contador will be the home favourite. Contador has already announced that the Vuelta will be the final race of his career. He has rarely known anything but success at his home race - he won on his first three appearances and placed fourth last year - but last month's Tour de France confirmed that his powers have waned dramatically. A podium will be a tough ask, but Contador can never be discounted.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) is among the general classification riders set to make their debut at the Vuelta a Espana. Bardet’s Grand Tour experience has thus far only come at the Tour de France, making this the first time he has taken on two three-week races in a single season. How the increased workload affects Bardet’s performance will have to be seen, but his anarchic yet intelligent approach to racing fits well into the style of racing at the Vuelta.
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