Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida)
Vuelta history: Only three starts, his best was 11th in 2005
Strengths: A steady climber who never seems to have a bad day; Scarponi is almost always there in the decisive moments. After a sub-par Giro, he’s riding into the Vuelta with no pressure, but a lot of ambition.
Why he can win: Almost no one will be looking at Scarponi, so he could slip away, gain some time, and then hold on for dear life.
Where he can lose: Italians typically struggle on Spanish roads, especially with the Giro being their season’s top goal months before. Scarponi could lose huge time early on, converting his Vuelta into a stage-hunting expedition.