It feels but yesterday that the new season began but the final Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, is already upon us. The youngest of the three Grand Tours, the Spanish race has developed a distinctive personality with its brutally steep climbs and scorching temperatures. This year will be no different with some new ascents scouted out for the occasion.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) won last year's race by more than two minutes over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) taking the final place on the rostrum. After already riding the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, Froome will not be back to defend his title, and instead, is set to ride the Tour of Britain.
Though Froome will not be present on the start line in Malaga, Nibali and Zakarin will be. Nibali is making his comeback after breaking a vertebra in a crash on the Alpe d’Huez during the second week of the Tour de France. Zakarin comes to the race hoping to put the Grand Tour train back on the rails after a disappointing showing at the Tour.
As ever, the line-up at the Vuelta is a mixture of those that have specifically targeted the event and those that - like Zakarin and Nibali - are hoping to make up for a disappointing July. With no clear dominant rider, the fight for the overall title looks to be wide open.
The general classification battle will provide the focal point for the Vuelta's three weeks but there is some intrigue outside it. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is due to make his return to the race after a lengthy absence as he builds up to the challenge of defending his run of three world titles. Sagan is still recovering from the after-effects of a hefty crash in the final week of the Tour de France and it remains to be seen how he'll do.
Sagan will be up against a slightly smaller sprint field to the one he faced last month, but he will go up against an in-form Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) who is looking to add to his four wins at the Giro d'Italia.
With all of this in mind, Cyclingnews has compiled a bumper list of 12 riders to watch for the forthcoming Vuelta a España. Watch the video above to see who else made it into our list and click here to subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel.
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