- The 2018 Vuelta a Espana is shaping up to be a battle between two riders who have never won a Grand Tour before.
- Top favorites Richie Porte and Simon Yates are both hoping to rebound from disappointment earlier in the year.
- Can Nairo Quintana recover from the Tour de France in time to challenge for another Red Jersey?
Richie Porte and Simon Yates entered the 2018 season with very different goals than they have now.
Porte was all-in for the 2018 Tour de France, but wound up breaking his collarbone on Stage 9 and was forced to abandon.
Yates was gunning for the 2018 Giro d’Italia, and led the race for 13 stages, but was soundly beaten by the imperious Chris Froome on the third-last day and wound up falling out of the top ten.
Now both men will try to salvage their seasons by doing something neither has done before: winning a Grand Tour.
Even though the field of contenders for the 2018 Vuelta a Espana features four former winners (Nairo Quintana, 2016; Fabio Aru, 2015, Vincenzo Nibali, 2010; Alejandro Valverde, 2009) Porte and Yates are the heavy favorites.
Top 10 Betting Favorites: 2018 Vuelta a Espana
|Richie Porte (BMC)||Australia||3/1|
|Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)||Great Britain||4/1|
|Nairo Quintana (Movistar)||Colombia||10/1|
|Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)||Colombia||11/1|
|Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)||Spain||11/1|
|Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)||Italy||18/1|
|Rigoberto Uran (Drapac)||Colombia||18/1|
|George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo)||New Zealand||22/1|
|Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)||Italy||22/1|
|Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb)||Netherlands||30/1|
The Case for Richie Porte
Long a lieutenant to Chris Froome at Sky, time is running out for the 33-year-old Aussie to win a Grand Tour. He’s targeted the Tour de France three times as BMC’s team leader, never finishing better than fifth (largely due to crashing out the past two years).
This will be the first time he has ridden the Vuelta since 2012, and it will be his first go with the General Classification as the ultimate goal.
The course plays to Porte’s strengths. The 2018 parcours is, as always, mountainous, with nine hilltop finishes (including one on just the second stage of the race). Porte is a strong climber when he’s on form, and having abandoned the Tour before the biggest mountains, he should near peak condition as long as the collarbone injury didn’t impact his training too much. (See 3:28 mark of video below for Porte’s Tour-ending crash.)
In addition to the mountain-top finishes, the 2018 route also includes two individual time trials. Porte is a strong time-trialist compared to many of the other top contenders. He won the Australian National TT Championship in 2015 and has finished as high as 4th at the World Time Trial Championships (2010). As long as he doesn’t get dropped on the biggest climbs, he has a good chance to gain time on riders like Yates and Valverde in the ITTs.
The Case for Simon Yates
At just 26 years of age, Yates is considerably younger than Porte and many of the other GC favorites. He hasn’t put his body through any major tribulations since the Giro back in May and should be plenty recovered from that massive effort.
While he cracked on the Colle de Finestre in the Giro (see video below), he is a tremendous climber who snatched the Pink Jersey on the early mountain-top finishes.
He finished a respectable 1:37 behind the leader on the Giro’s ITT and lost just over a minute to the main GC contenders (Froome and Tom Dumoulin). That’s somewhat auspicious for his Vuelta hopes, as Froome and Dumoulin are two of the best time-trialists in the world, and Yates should lose less time to the likes of Porte and Quintana if he puts in a similar effort.
The Case for Anyone Else
Porte and Yates are such short favorites largely because Nairo Quintana rode the full length of the Tour de France and, to be frank, didn’t look good in the process, finishing a disappointing 10th. The diminutive Colombian climber has not lived up to expectations in recent years and there is little reason to think he can recover from the Tour in time to best strong riders like Porte and Yates. While he did look great on Stage 17 of the Tour up the Col du Portet (see video below), realistically, he needs chaos to ensue to claim another Vuelta title.
Miguel Angel Lopez burst onto the scene with an 8th-place finish at last year’s Vuelta, and followed that up with a 3rd-place at the 2018 Giro, reaching the podium thanks to Yates’ complete collapse. At 24 years old, he’s the future of Colombian cycling. But with two time trials to contend with at the Vuelta, the 5’7 climber is likely going to be done in by the route.
Many eyes will flock to four-time Grand Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali at 22/1. But don’t get too excited. The Shark of Messina is targeting the World Road Race Championships in Innsbruck at the end of September. He has not been gearing up for the Vuelta and the GC may be a secondary concern for last year’s runner-up.