Just four weeks after Chris Froome’s epic win the Tour de France, the Vuelta a Espana begins on Saturday 24th August featuring as many as 11 summit finishes within the 2013 itinerary.
Froome will not be involved this year but Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde will attempt to win on home soil as they face a challenge from Italian Vincenzo Nibali, the winner of the 2013 Giro D’Italia.
2010 winner Nibali once again opted to bypass the Le Tour after his victory in the Giro and he can be backed at 9/4 with Paddy Power to complete the Italian/Spanish double. He has been fairly quiet since his Italian triumph and will be that much fresher for this particularly difficult Vuelta route.
Joaquim Rodriguez has yet to win any of the three main tours despite achieving consistently high finishes. He has attempted a Tour de France / Vuelta double on one previous occasion when finishing seventh and fourth. After a third place in France, Ladbrokes are offering him at 3/1 for victory but the 2013 Le Tour was one of the more gruelling for some time and his chances for a maiden grand tour win will depend on his recovery powers.
A puncture and a subsequent delay on the road denied Alejandro Valverde an opportunity to challenge for a podium position in France. He was still quite aggressive in helping team mate Nairo Quintana to second place overall and will be keen to repeat his 2009 triumph in this race after finishing second last year. Valverde may offer the biggest threat to Nibali
and is priced at 9/2 by William Hill.
Team Sky will be represented by consistent Colombian Sergio Henao as leader with a decent back-up squad including the consistent Rigoberto Uran who was 2nd in the 2013 Giro. After finishing 14th last season, the 25 year old is expected to show improvement on that display and can be backed at 5/2 with Bet Victor for a top three podium finish.
Another improving rider is fellow Colombian Carlos Betancur. At 23 years old he won the young riders competition when finishing fifth in the Giro in May and is 5/2 at Bet Victor for a Podium Finish. Of a similar age to Betancur, Polish rider Rafal Majka finished just behind the Colombian in seventh and may challenge Roman Kreuziger for team leadership of
Team Saxo-Tinkoff in the absence of Alberto Contador. Majka is 66/1 at Boylesports at 1/4 the odds each way.
When looking for a potential winner of the King of the Mountains jersey, a glance at the recent form of Spanish rider Amets Txurruka suggests that he could be a leading candidate. He has claimed the mountains classification in both 2013 renewals of Tour of the Basque Country and Vuelta a Burgos and can be backed at 13/2 with Bet365 for Vuelta a Espana title.
Fellow Spaniard Mikel Nieve is also an aggressive mountain rider and finished 12th in this year’s Tour de France. Besides being offered at 7/2 by Bet Victor for a Top 10 Finish, Paddy Power offer him at 25/1 for the polka dot jersey for which Australian Simon Clarke is 16/1 at Ladbrokes for a repeat performance from 2012.
With several stages visiting the hotter areas of southern Spain, the 2013 edition of the Vuelta a Espana promises to be the most gruelling for years and those riders with the freshest legs may ultimately have a clear advantage.