Without title defender Simon Yates, the 74th edition of the Vuelta a España will start on Saturday. These are the favorites for the third big round of the year, which starts with a team time trial in Torrevieja.
Primoz Roglic / Steven Kruijswijk
After a very successful Tour de France (four stage wins and a third place for Kruijswijk in the final classification) Jumbo-Visma starts with a strong team in the Tour of Spain. Kruijswijk is this time shadow leader behind Roglic. The Slovenian tiredly withdrew for the Tour after he had finished third in the Giro d'Italia. The former ski jumper has, among others George Bennett and Robert Gesink, a couple of strong climbers as servants.
Steven Kruijswijk (right) is the best rider in the Tour who participates in the Vuelta. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Nairo Quintana / Alejandro Valverde
For the Spanish team Movistar, the Vuelta is one of the most important races of the year. Giro winner Richard Carapaz was the intended leader of the team, but the Ecuadorian was taken off the starting list at the last moment after he crashed hard at a criterium in Etten-Leur. The Colombian Quintana (Vuelta winner in 2016) will now be played as leader. World champion Alejandro Valverde announced to go for stage victories, but the organization gave the 39-year-old Spaniard start number 1 in the absence of defending champion Yates.
Valverde has starting number 1. (Photo: Por Shots)
Miguel Ángel López
Because last year's number two (Enric Más) is also missing, López is the number three competitor of the 2018 Vuelta who will also participate this year. The 25-year-old Colombian does not have a great season and disappointed with a seventh place in the Giro. In Spain, with strong Astana teammates such as Jakob Fuglsang, the brothers Ion and Gorka Izagirre and Luis León Sánchez, López has the opportunity to save his year.
Astana leader López has a strong team behind them. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Fabio Aru / Tadej Pogacar
UAE Emirates also has a strong Vuelta team. Twenty-year-old Slovenian Pogacar makes his big debut and is seen as a dangerous outsider. Aru won the Vuelta in 2015 by driving Tom Dumoulin out of the red jersey in the closing weekend. In the six major laps he has been riding since, the Italian did not go further than fifth in the overall standings (Tour de France of 2017).
Top talent Pogacar starts its first big round. (Photo: Pro Shots)
The Pool of BORA-hansgrohe became third in 2015 in the Vuelta and achieved a top ten ranking in the Giro four times. At the age of 29, the climber is now in the power of his life and all favorites will keep a close eye on him.
The Colombian from EF Education First surprised in 2017 by becoming second in the Tour de France and this year he was also one of the best climbers in France. Since the Tour he did not start in any course, to fully prepare for the Vuelta.
The fourth Colombian in this list. The 1.64 meter small climber is the undisputed leader of Mitchelton-SCOTT, the team that won the Vuelta last year with Yates. In 2016, Chaves was already number three on the podium in Spain.
Team INEOS (formerly Sky) dominates almost all major rounds this decade, but the leaders Chris Froome, Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas are missing in the Vuelta. The 31-year-old Limburger Poels therefore has the long-awaited chance to start a big lap as a leader for the first time in his career. As a servant, Poels already demonstrated that he can go up with the best riders in some Tour stages, but can he also perform consistently at top level for three weeks? He shares the leadership with 24-year-old Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Poels can finally prove himself as a leader in a big round. (Photo: NUsport)
Wilco Kelderman is the leader at Team Sunweb. He was fourth in the Vuelta in 2017 and last year he finished as number ten in the final classification. He had to give up this summer in the Tour with a back injury and since then he has not played at WorldTour level anymore, so it is guessing about his current level of form.
Kelderman is the leader of Team Sunweb. (Photo: Pro Shots)