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Vuelta a Espana

Analyzing Bora-Hansgrohe’s Vuelta a España lineup

The German squad brings a wealth of GC talent, including Giro winner Jai Hindley, and looks set to target sprints with Sam Bennett and Danny van Poppel.

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The final grand tour of the season, the Vuelta a España is fast approaching and Bora-Hansgrohe has thrown everything it’s got at it.

After a surprising, but emphatic, GC win at the Giro d’Italia with Jai Hindley, the German team came out of the Tour de France with a solid fifth place overall finish from Aleksandr Vlasov.

Coming into the Vuelta a España, the squad appears to be hedging its bets between the GC and the sprints.

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Hindley is back in grand tour action after returning to racing in late July, but he’s not the only GC option with Emanuel Buchmann, Sergio Higuita, and Wilco Kelderman in the lineup. Meanwhile, Sam Bennett is set to ride his first grand tour since the 2020 Vuelta as he looks to get some more victories in the books.

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett will be looking for stage victories in Spain
Sam Bennett will be looking for stage victories in Spain (Photo: David Stockman/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Potential role: Sprinter
Age: 31
Vuelta pedigree: Raced in 2019 and 2020, won three stages

In contrast to previous seasons, Bennett’s place in the Vuelta a España team was far from certain after some disappointing results this season. The Irishman has been battling to find his former best after a knee injury last summer derailed the rest of his 2021 campaign.

He had hoped to get back to winning ways with Bora-Hansgrohe this season and a victory at the Eschborn-Frankfurt seemed to indicate that he was heading in the right direction.

However, Bennett has still appeared below par in recent months with fifth place the best he could manage at the Tour of Poland. He will have a point to prove at the Vuelta a España and a win there would be a huge morale boost.

Jai Hindley

Potential role: Team leader
Age: 26
Vuelta pedigree: 32nd in 2018

After his impressive victory at the Giro d’Italia earlier this season, Hindley has placed himself among the top favorites for overall success at the Vuelta a España.

Hindley’s path of progression as a GC rider has been a steady one and he announced himself as a serious contender when he finished second overall at the 2020 Giro d’Italia. Injury woes last season prevented him from backing that up but he came out swinging at the corsa rosa in May.

Hindley took a long break over the summer and only began racing again at San Sebastián at the end of July. Following a stuttering restart, he’s been building form and a solid seventh overall at the Vuelta a Burgos shows he’s on the right trajectory.

Emanuel Buchmann

Potential role: Team leader, super domestique
Age: 29
Vuelta pedigree: 12th in 2018

Buchmann has plenty of talent, but he can be an unpredictable performer on the grand tour stage. Previous performances, such as his fourth place at the 2019 Tour de France and seventh at this year’s Giro d’Italia, mean that he’s likely to get some sort of protection from the team, at least in the opening stages of the race.

With lots of other big GC talent in the team, it’s possible that he will end up sliding into more of a super domestique role by the end of the week.

Having a rider like Buchmann around on the climbs means that Bora-Hansgrohe should still have some serious numbers in the latter part of mountainous stages, which could be key in the battle against the likes of Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma.

Sergio Higuita

Sergio Higuita wore the race leader's jersey at the Tour of Poland
Sergio Higuita wore the race leader’s jersey at the Tour of Poland

Potential role: Super domestique
Age: 25
Vuelta pedigree: 14th in 2019

Higuita has been making huge strides as a stage racer and his move to Bora-Hansgrohe has seen him take another big step forward this season. He has racked up an overall win at the Vuelta a Catalunya, second place overall at the Tour de Suisse and a recent stage win at the Tour of Poland, where he finished eighth overall.

In another team, Higuita would rightly have at least co-leadership with another rider or perhaps sole leadership. However, with Bora-Hansgrohe brimming with GC talent at the moment, he’s likely to start of playing a support role.

Some strong performances early on could earn him a place at the top table and he’s a good fall-back option for the team if things start to go awry.

Wilco Kelderman

Potential role: Super domestique
Age: 31
Vuelta pedigree: 4th in 2017, 10th in 2018, 7th in 2019

Despite never winning one, Kelderman has the best overall grand tour GC record of Bora-Hansgrohe’s Vuelta a España squad. The Dutchman has finished in the top 10 of all three of cycling’s three-week races and took to the podium at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Kelderman went into this year’s Giro as a co-leader but slid out of contention early in the race. Despite climbing the standings following a breakaway in the second week, he conceded that he wasn’t climbing well enough to contend for a top placing by the end of the race.

Kelderman could still put up a good GC fight but he’s also an excellent mountain domestique and Bora-Hansgrohe would benefit from using him as such.

Jonas Koch

Potential role: Leadout, domestique
Age: 29
Vuelta pedigree: Rode it in 2019

A relatively recent addition to the WorldTour, after stepping up back in 2019, Koch has quietly built himself a career as a strong support rider in the bunch.

The 29-year-old will be a good bridge between the GC portion of the team and the sprinters. He’ll be a big engine on the flat and lumpy days and will be able to help control the peloton to aid the team’s daily ambitions.

Ryan Mullen

Ryan Mullen will be one of the riders tasked with helping to control the peloton
Ryan Mullen will be one of the riders tasked with helping to control the peloton (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Potential role: Leadout
Age: 28
Vuelta pedigree: None

Mullen will be making his Vuelta a España debut this month after riding only one grand tour before, the 2018 Giro d’Italia. He was brought in at the start of this season to help support Sam Bennett in the sprints and that will be his primary role in Spain this month. With form as a time trialist, he will also have an important part to play in pace setting in the bunch.

Danny van Poppel

Potential role: Leadout, sprints
Age: 29
Vuelta pedigree: Ridden it in 2015 and 2018, won one stage

Van Poppel is another part of the influx of new riders to Bora-Hansgrohe over the winter. He was brought in to support returning sprinter Bennett, but with the Irishman struggling for form, he has had some of his own opportunities this season. He’s likely to be the last man for Bennett in the opening sprint stages, but he is stronger on the lumpier days and he could get his own opportunities to go for victory.