The general classification battle at the Vuelta a Espana is beginning to take shape as the organisers have released the provisional start list for the final Grand Tour of the season. Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky), Fabio Aru (Astana), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) are all confirmed for the three-week race, which begins in Nimes on August 19.
Froome is looking to win the Vuelta a Espana for the first time in his career after finishing second on three separate occasions. He won his fourth Tour de France last month, beating Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) by 54 seconds. Froome should have the support of Wout Poels, who missed selection for the Tour de France after an injury-hampered start to the season.
Uran is one notable absence as he heads to North America to begin his preparation for the World Championships at the end of September. Defending champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will also not be present after riding the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France already this season. Giro champion Tom Dumoulin will also be skipping the race, also choosing Canada as his preferred build-up to the Worlds in Norway.
Alberto Contador's participation is still up in the air, but he appears on Trek-Segafredo's provisional line-up, which has to be submitted no less than two weeks ahead of the race. The Vuelta a Espana was not originally on Contador's season plan, but after a disappointing Tour de France the former champion talked of his desire to ride his home Grand Tour. Contador has not ridden since finishing the Tour de France in ninth place overall.
Orica-Scott has put forward all three of their Grand Tour contenders with the Yates brothers Adam and Simon currently set to line up alongside Esteban Chaves. Adam Yates rode the Giro d'Italia earlier this season finishing ninth in the general classification and second to Bob Jungels in the youth classification. After a break of two months, he returned to action at the end of July and is currently taking part in the Tour de Pologne. Chaves and Simon Yates both rode the Tour de France with the latter winning the youth classification.
Jungels is also set to take the start in Nimes on August 19, with David De La Cruz also on Quick-Step Floors' preliminary nine-man team. Ilnur Zakarin looks likely to headline the Katusha-Alpecin team after finishing fifth overall at the Giro earlier in the season.
Other notable names on the provisional start list are Team Sunweb's Warren Barguil, and Bora-Hansgrohe pairing Rafal Majka and Leopold König. Barguil, who is set to leave Sunweb at the end of the season, enjoyed a hugely successful Tour de France with two stage victories and the mountains classification. 2015 Vuelta podium finisher Majka was not so fortunate after crashing heavily on stage 9 and eventually abandoning. König has had yet another difficult season hampered by a knee injury and has only raced five days in all of 2017. He is due to ride the Czech Tour next week, where his performance is likely to be key in deciding if he starts the Spanish race.
Outside of the general classification riders, fans will be surprised not to see Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) on the provisional start list. After riding all of the last 18 Grand Tours, Hansen confirmed that he would not be riding his 19th in a row after the team informed him he failed to make the selection.
Click here for the full provisional start list.
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