Vuelta a Espana

Stars measuring Vuelta efforts with worlds in mind

Top climbers can vie for two major jerseys this autumn — Vuelta red and the world champion's rainbow. But which do they prioritize?

LA CAMPERONA, Spain (VN) — The stars heading to the world championship road race in Innsbruck must keep in mind how much energy they spend climbing the Vuelta a España’s mountains — is it worth pursuing the red jersey?

For some, the Vuelta provides ideal preparation with its numerous summit finish stages, given that this year’s worlds course includes nearly 5,000 meters of climbing. But there are other riders who hope to win the Vuelta overall, and that could impact their form when the rainbow jersey is on the line September 30.

“I came in a little undercooked and looking to build form in the coming weeks,” Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) told VeloNews. “We will see how that goes, I’ve never done it before, and I only did the world championships once as a pro in 2014. I feel OK now.”

The Brit is racing for the overall classification in the Vuelta a España, as is Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). They — unlike Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and others — cannot afford to save much over the three weeks in Spain if they want to win the overall classification in Madrid on September 16.

“Saving energy? For me no, I try to win here, I try to do the best I can, but for me, it’s more about how I come out of it rather than what I do in the race,” Yates continued, explaining how the Vuelta might affect worlds form. “Making sure my recovery is good in the immediate days after the race. There’s not much to it, you don’t have to do much work to get there, we do the work here.”

Adam Yates
Simon Yates is one rider trying to win both the Vuelta’s red jersey and the world champion’s rainbow jersey. Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

On the other hand, some riders who would typically vie for GC are out of the picture. Nibali and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) are able to slowly build for worlds without thinking of the overall after losing lots of time in the Vuelta’s first week.

“You see that Nibali, for example, is not riding the Vuelta like he wants to win it, also guys like Richie Porte and Dan Martin [who abandoned earlier for the birth of his twin children],” German Simon Geschke (Sunweb) explained. “For sure they have the world champs in the back of their heads.

“I am here for GC support; that means I don’t have to go all out every day to the finish line, I can take it more or less easy at the mountaintop finishes for example. It’s also a question of how often you go in breakaways. Normally, it’s not planned that I will not invest energy in breakaways. I always stay with Wilco Kelderman, he will be in the bunch, so I take it a bit easier.”

Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) made a breakthrough in the 2017 Vuelta a España. This year, he rides in support of Rigoberto Urán and hopes to lead Canada later in Innsbruck, Austria.

“It’s much harder [for the GC men],” said Woods. “I ran GC last year here and I was so mentally fatigued afterwards, but I was a new rider at that moment. Adam Yates and Simon Yates are seasoned veterans at this point, and I’m sure Simon will be able to keep it going [for the worlds].

“Running a GC is really difficult, especially for the worlds, which is a lot of stress, but if you can pace the race well and have a few off days, then you will have a good worlds.”

And as for the reigning world champion, he too has suggested that the Vuelta is preparation for another run at the title. However, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) also admitted that keeping the rainbow jersey for a fourth year is unlikely. He is still in the running for the Vuelta’s green points classification jersey as well.

For those that can climb, a few important jerseys are up for grabs this year. The question is: Which hue do they covet most?