The legs will decide, as the cycling chestnut goes. That’s physiological truth but for a moment let’s indulge the heart — who on an emotional level would we like to see win this year’s Vuelta a Espana?
First up, the man in the red jersey, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). Tomorrow’s final mountain stage up to the summit of the Alto de La Covatilla, will be the last chance for anyone to stop the Slovenian from arriving in Madrid still stylishly dressed in red.
On an emotional level, we’re pulling for Roglic to win almost as hard as Sepp Kuss helps pull him up mountains. He looked set to win the Tour de France until the penultimate time trial where he was upset by countryman Tadej Pogacar (UAE). Roglic was both classy and philosophical in defeat and that makes us feel like karma may be delivering a good turn. There would be plenty of cycling fans out there hoping he wins the Vuelta to erase his painful Tour disaster.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) is 45 seconds behind Roglic on GC. He’s got himself a tall order on Saturday with just one final mountain stage to take the jersey off Roglic. He did it twice earlier in this Vuelta but unless Rogic does another unexpected flame-out, he may be out of luck.
However, the heart says the Ecuadorian would be a fine winner. He rode well for his squad in the Tour even though he was a last minute addition when to many people’s shock, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were left off the roster. In the Vuelta, he’s fought every day, punching and counter-punching. While a Carapaz victory wouldn’t be the same feel-good fairy tale of Ineos’ young Tao Geoghegan Hart winning the Giro, it would still be merited.
Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling). OMG, who doesn’t want this gangly spider in pink to win the Vuelta? The Englishman has been the revelation of the Vuelta and his stunning display of power, grit and determination in winning the brutal Angliru stage impressed everyone.
His open, honest and matter-of-fact way of speaking is also endearing him to fans. He’s focused, he’s not settling for third on the podium, he wants the whole enchilada. Carthy and I are the same height so I am 100% all in emotionally for him to somehow wipe out his 53 second deficit to Roglic and stun the world. And after his teammate Magnus Cort’s victory today on stage 16, he has even more inspiration. Go, pink spider, go.
Dan Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) sits in fourth place, a distant 1:48 from glory. Martin has always had bad luck in grand tours — there’s always a crash or a bad day, no matter whether he’s riding for Jonathan’s Vaughters team or Etixx-Quickstep or UAE Team Emirates.
However, he’s been pretty consistent in this Vuelta and riding with aggression and purpose. We’ve always appreciated his Irish charm and sense of humor and there’s a no-bullshit quality to him. You know he’s always going to drain the tank and give everything he’s got. We’d be thrilled if by some miracle — Roglic crashes, Carapaz gets food poisoning, Carthy wakes up with temporary blindness — Martin blows everyone away on the Alto de La Covatilla and wins solo by 2 minutes. Not going to happen, but emotionally, we’re giving him a psychic push up the mountain.
That’s where our heart is. Where’s yours?