Will the Vuelta a España be the most hotly contested grand tour of 2017?
It’s sure stacking up that way. Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Fabio Aru (Astana), and soon-to-retire Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) are all confirmed to start.
The latest to assure his presence at the start line August 19 in Nimes, France, is Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali. In an interview posted on La Vuelta’s official website, the 2010 Vuelta winner said he’ll be in fighting form for the Spanish grand tour.
“I’ll be in top shape for the Vuelta,” Nibali said. “I’ve always liked the Vuelta. I won it, and the courses in Spain suit me well. As always, I will start to give it my best.”
The 32-year-old Nibali won the 2010 Vuelta to herald his emergence as a grand tour winner. Two victories in the Giro d’Italia and his 2014 win at the Tour de France make him just one of six riders who have won all three grand tours.
Nibali looked to have the 2013 Vuelta in the bag, leading for much of the race only to lose the jersey in the final days to Chris Horner, who became the oldest grand tour winner and the first American to win the Vuelta.
“The Vuelta convinced me that I am a stage racer,” he said. “The red jersey brings me intense memories, but so does the second place behind Horner. Defeat is also part of sport, and anyway, I always look forward.”
Nibali finished third at the 2017 Giro d’Italia in May behind Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Neither of those riders are lining up for the Vuelta. In addition to the top confirmed riders, the GC field will be the deepest of all three grand tours this year.
Nibali was quick to point out that because it comes after both the Giro and Tour, the Vuelta is unlike any other race.
“I don’t think there’s a clear favorite,” Nibali said. “I believe the course will deliver some surprises.”
Nibali recently returned to competition, finishing ninth overall at the Tour of Poland. After a spell at altitude, “The Shark” says he will be ready to fight for the win.