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It might be hard to beat the excitement from this year’s Tour de France but the Vuelta a España is going to try.
The French grand tour delivered its most thrilling edition in decades, capped by the historic victory from Egan Bernal to become the first Latin American winner of the yellow jersey. Bernal, 22, landed back in Colombia this week to a hero’s welcome where he’ll be celebrated across the country in the coming days and weeks.
The remainder of the peloton, meanwhile, turns its eyes to the Vuelta, set to begin on August 24 along Spain’s Mediterranean coast with a team time trial.
Vuelta boss Javier Guillén promised that the Spanish grand tour will not disappoint fans who have grown accustomed to fireworks each summer on the Iberian peninsula. He expressed optimism that the top stars will show up to race despite the exclusion of a few key names.
“For the past few years, we are the second-most viewed race in the world, behind the Tour, and the only thing we have to do is to keep betting on the spectacular courses we have,” Guillén told Europa Press. “And count on the riders giving the fans what they want.”
Guillén downplayed the suggestion that this year’s Vuelta field might not pack the punch the Spanish tour has enjoyed over the past several years.
Several key names are missing, including recently crowned Tour winner Bernal, as well as injured stars Chris Froome (Ineos) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). Spanish star Mikel Landa (Movistar), who’s already raced the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta, also will not start. Bora-Hansgrohe officials also confirmed three-time world champion Peter Sagan will not race the Vuelta ahead of the Yorkshire worlds in September.
Plenty of others are expected to start, including a power-packed Movistar team with defending Giro champion Richard Carapaz, world champion Alejandro Valverde and former winner Nairo Quintana. Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), both former podium finishers, as well as former winner Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates) are also confirmed starters.
“No one comes to the Vuelta just to pedal the bike,” Guillén said. “All the top-level riders only think about winning when they are racing. I’m not worried about the intensity they bring, I am only worried about if they come or not.”
Guillén is well aware that injuries and racing priorities sometimes mean that the Vuelta is not the central focus for many of the top international riders. He also knows that the race is ideally situated on the calendar to draw the top names looking to round out their palmares at the end of a racing season.
Other possible GC contenders reportedly considering to start include Geraint Thomas (Ineos), defending champion Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk or Primoz Roglic.
Other top names could include Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Elia Viviani and Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Caleb Ewan and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Fernando Gaviria and Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Emirates) and Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The Vuelta packs enough prestige to attract the top stage racers across the international peloton, more so now than ever. This year’s more balanced course will see the GC fight spread out over three weeks.
“What the public wants to see is the big fight, the struggle, the suffering, and understanding what cyclists can do no one else can,” he said. “That’s why we love it so much.”
The 2019 Vuelta begins in Torrevieja on August 24 with a team time trial and concludes in Madrid on September 15.