Vuelta. What the Tour de France wasn’t.
The Helta Skelta Vuelta in on the near horizon. Based on the long list of contenders, it’s like stepping up to a Spanish tapas bar with a sensory overload of delicious yummies.
First, there’s Tour winner Chris Froome, bringing his less-than-juggernaut squad but still hoping to strangle the race to death. Let’s pray that doesn’t happen or we may take a three week siesta.
That said, there are plenty of rivals and if all their fortunes go well — let’s say better than at Le Tour — we may have an awesome and entertaining Vuelta on hand. It would be everything the Tour wasn’t — competitive, cut-throat, spontaneous, aggressive, not dominated by one team.
So out with the mediocre Bordeaux, in with the sassy Sangria. Let’s party.
First off, we have little Nairo Quintana of Movistar, the man we expected to attack Froome in France like a rapid dog. Instead he launched two small attacks in three weeks, became worn down in the high winds and then lost his immune system. Let’s make the bold assumption that we can expect more than two attacks from Quintana in Spain.
Then there’s the Redemption twins, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac.) The BMC captain came into the Tour with serious plans and left with a serious mystery best summed up as “What Happened To My Legs?
For reasons that eluded him, Van Garderen simply could not diagnose his physical aliment. Maybe there is no particular answer but we can reasonably expect a better result then 29th place, the position he finished in France, over an hour behind Froome’s winning time.
Then there’s the Pitbull Andrew Talansky, who missed the Tour with a family issue and illness and assorted crapola. After watching his teammate Pierre Rolland hit the deck so many times on wet roads in France, Talansky is probably thankful he is riding the hot, dry and sunny Vuelta.
Cyclingnews put it best when describing Talansky’s career as “stalled.” It seems ages since his top ten result in the 2013 Tour de France but he has certainly had some bright and promising performances this year — 3rd Overall at the Tour of Utah, 4th Overall at the Tour of California and 5th Overall in the Tour de Suisse. How’s that for numerical progression? No question that the Pitbull needs to deliver a meaningful result in the Vuelta. What’s meaningful? Better than top ten, ideally top 5.
This brings us to the most interesting card in the deck, the wild man joker, Alberto Contador. The only rider willing and able to attack Chris Froome anywhere at any time was sadly DNF in France. He crashed several times in the first few days and was quickly out of the race. We’re hoping he’s homicidally angry and bent on serious revenge. He’s the variable that no Team Sky algorithm can account for.
This brings us to the Orica-BikeExchange duo of Esteban Chavez and Simon Yates. Chavez has already made his mark this season, wearing the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia and finishing second in a crazy last week that saw Vincenzo Nibali resurrect his fortunes and win the Italian grand tour. The Colombian has the luxury of no pressure or stress and he can perhaps fly a bit under the radar.
Yates, on the other hand, might be as angry and motivated as Contador after he missed four months of this season for a doping violation — one caused by some sloppy paperwork from the team doctor. His brother Adam put in a fantastic ride in France, finishing 4th overall –can his brother deliver the goods in Spain?
And if ever there was a revenge candidate, that vote would have to go to another Giro victim, Steven Kruijswijk. He had the Giro all but won until he crashed into a snowbank on the Colle dell’Agnello. It was a shocking turn of events but how sweet would it be for the Dutchman to come back and win the Vuelta? Very sweet, that’s how sweet.
Our guess is that Froome’s luck isn’t as miraculously good as it was in France. We’re also afraid that Van Garderen and Tolansky will diesel their way up the GC but not onto the podium. This feels like a Contador versus Quintana show with Froome rounding out the podium in third.
But that’s just a wild guess. This is the Helta Skelta Vuelta and nobody controls the loco grand tour.