The 73rd Vuelta a España, the final Grand Tour of the 2018 season, begins on Saturday with a short time trial in Malaga in southern Spain. Canadian Cycling Magazine’s second preview looks at the contenders, most of whom are hoping to put a disappointing, even disastrous, first 2018 Grand Tour, behind them.

Thibaut Pinot is one of several Vuelta contenders who had a disappointing first Grand Tour in 2018. Photo: Sirotti

Giro Riders

Of the two Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia had more dramatic implosions than the Tour de France. Simon Yates (Great Britain/Mitchelton-Scott) had led the race for 13 stages while winning three stages, and looked imperious, when he melted down on the penultimate mountain stage, sinking to 18th before dropping to 22nd the next day. Yates recently came runner-up in the Tour of Poland after taking the final stage.

After wearing pink for 13 days and winning three stages, Simon Yates’ late-Giro implosion was epic. Photo: Sirotti

Fabio Aru (Italy/UAE-Emirates) almost climbed off the bike on his own jours sans, Stage 13, and then finally did so, even after one of his best time trials. Aru blamed over training and a gluten intolerance for the shambles. Tenth in the Tour of Poland, Aru might be outshone by teammate Dan Martin, 8th in the Tour de France.

Another sad spectacle was poor Thibaut Pinot (France/Groupama-FDJ) retching up his gels on the final GC stage while sitting in third. Suffering with pneumonia, he didn’t start the next day’s procession to Rome, and his affliction was so bad it kept him out of the Tour de France. Pinot was third in the Tour of Poland.

Tour de France Riders

At first, it seemed like Movistar was going to get the ol’ Trident Gang back together again for another shot at Grand Tour glory, after Mikel Landa’s 7th, Nairo Quintana’s 10th and Alejandro Valverde’s 14th, along with the team prize, failed to satisfy anyone at the Tour de France. Landa’s injuries from his San Sebastian crash with Egan Bernal have denied him a chance at the Vuelta. Nairo Quintana is best suited to the terrain and hasn’t raced since the Tour. Strong support in Valverde, Giro fourth place Richard Carapaz and Andrey Amador will aid the Colombian’s bid for a second Vuelta title.

Richie Porte (Australia/BMC) crashed out of the Tour de France for the second year in a row on the same stage as 2017. Somehow he is the odds-on favourite to wear the red jersey in Madrid at the conclusion his last Grand Tour before transferring to Trek, even though most of the time he disappoints in the three-week stage races.

Fourth place at the time, Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Bahrain-Merida) crashed on Alpe d’Huez when he tangled with a spectator, fracturing his back and ending his bid for the yellow. He says that he isn’t after the GC, but riding back into shape for the World Championships in Innsbruck.

Crash injuries also caused Rigoberto Uran (Colombia), Michael Woods’ teammate, to withdraw from the Tour de France before Stage 12. Tour runner-up in 2017, Uran was sixth when he crashed on Stage 8 and then creaked on for a few more days.

Adam Yates, Simon’s twin, also had a poor first Grand Tour of the season, with 29th as his final Tour spot. Unfortunately, the last time Simon and Adam raced a Grand Tour together, it was last season’s Vuelta, and they were both mediocre.

Trek counts on Bauke Mollema to get Grand Tour top-10s and he only could achieve 26th in July’s Tour.

Non-Second Chancers

Although though Michael Woods (Canada/EF-Drapac) improved on his Giro GC this May, jumping from 38th in 2017 to 19th, he wasn’t as sharp as he was at last season’s Vuelta, where he set the Canadian record with 7th place. Recently, he was 9th in the Tour of Utah to a dominant Sepp Kuss (see below).

At the Giro Angel Lopez (Colombia/Astana) scrapped with Carapaz for both the podium and the best young rider jersey, winning both. “Superman” took two Vuelta stages last year while earning 8th spot. He brings a good, strong team.

Angel Lopez claimed his first Grand Tour podium in May’s Giro. Photo: Sirotti

Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk was part of LottoNL-Jumbo’s Tour de France skirmishing with Sky that proved far more effective than Movistar’s. His fifth place was his second best Grand Tour result. He’ll have red hot American Sepp Kuss on his team.

Ilnur Zakarin‘s only Grand Tour podium came in last year’s Vuelta and he’ll be looking to improve on a ninth in the Tour de France.

Just before the Tour de France Tom Dumoulin was dismayed to find his main mountain helper Wilco Kelderman had injured his shoulder at the Dutch national championships. Kelderman and Zakarin vied for that final podium spot in last year’s Vuelta.

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