The Points classification is usually reserved for the sprinters, but the 2017 Vuelta a España (19 August – 10 September) is shaking things up a bit. With its unforgiving climbs and nine summit finishes, the 2017 profile does not favor the sprinters one bit. With just five flat stages out of a total of 21, the Vuelta will require its Red Jersey contenders to battle some pretty steep gradients before earning the right to contest a sprint.
For that reason, most teams have chosen to leave their more pure sprinters at home. And interestingly, General classification favorite Chris Froome opens as the Points favorite. After winning his fourth Tour de France this year, the Sky rider is attempting the elusive Tour-Vuelta double. Despite three second-place finishes, he’s never managed to win the Spanish grand tour, so taking the General Classification will be hard enough for him.
Team Quick-Step Floors has two serious contenders for the Red Jersey. First, there’s punchy Julian Alaphilippe. The 25-year-old is more well-known as a Classics rider, but he’s well-suited for this Vuelta route and is possibly Froome’s greatest threat. By his side is his teammate Matteo Trentin, a sprinter who has claimed three grand tour stages over his career.
Alberto Contador will be retiring after the Vuelta, so he’ll want to end on a high note. If he loses sight of the General classification — which is quite likely given his current form — then he may choose to devote himself to the Points classification. But he’ll have to outpace his teammate John Degenkolb, a well-rounded sprinter capable of handling himself in the mountains.
Other GC contenders, like Vincenzo Nibali, Johan Esteban Chaves, and Fabio Aru are also in the running for the Red Jersey. In order to gain time over Chris Froome in the General classification, they’ll need to attack and shake off the Sky train. By doing so, they could inadvertently rack up some intermediate sprint points and even a few stage wins.
Unlike the General classification, the Points classification doesn’t have an overwhelming favorite. The GC battle will undoubtedly shape the race for the Red Jersey, so the favorites could change on a dime. As it stands, here are the contenders to watch.
Odds to Win the Vuelta a España Points Classification
Chris Froome (Team Sky): 4/1
Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors): 6/1
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida): 9/1
John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo): 10/1
Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo): 19/1
Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors): 20/1
Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott): 22/1
Fabio Aru (Astana): 30/1