Stellar line-up in the making for Vuelta 2016

With Team Sky’s Chris Froome, Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana all set to line-up in Orense in three weeks’ time, we could be in for another memorable edition of the Vuelta a España.

2014 emphasized a trump card the Vuelta holds vis-a-vis the Giro; while most of those riders serious about targeting the Tour de France won’t consider harming their plans by riding the Giro, the Vuelta represents an ideal second opportunity for those who left Paris empty handed or disillusioned.

This year, the Vuelta organisers can take pleasure from a similar scenario. After crashing twice on the opening two days and then succumbing to illness, Contador abandoned the Tour after a week and his name was swiftly added to the starting list of the Vuelta.

Meanwhile, another of Chris Froome’s presumed rivals, Quintana, did manage to make it to Paris but suffered from allergies, and he never posed any serious threat to the utter dominance displayed by Froome and his team. The Colombian had hardly left the French capital before deciding to forego the Olympic Games, giving him the time to rest and recover that should mean he’s somewhere near his best at the Vuelta.

Froome’s fifth participation in six years was confirmed shortly after he sealed his third yellow jersey in four years last week. A question mark regarding his ability to cope with the accrued exhaustion as he faces little let-up with the Olympic road race and time trial both looming on the horizon. Fatigue, on the other hand, might not be a problem for Contador who was spared the arduous Tour stages in the mountains.

Among the other major contenders for Vuelta glory we find the riders who did the Giro.

Orica-Bike Exchange’s Esteban Chaves will surely be a force to be reckoned with after coming of age and coming so close to victory at the Giro. Similarly, Steven Kruijswijk, who looked the strongest man in the Giro and led the race until his calamitous crack on the decline of the Agnello pass.

With the notion that the stakes are lower than at the Tour and the racing less inhibited, the Vuelta might evolve into the most exciting race of the year.

This year’s Giro will be difficult to surpass but with the Vuelta continuing its modern trend of insatiable lust for mountain finishes – 10 this year – the most exciting Grand Tour racing of the season may lie ahead of us.

The Vuelta commences on August 20 and finishes on September 11.