Wednesday, 15 August 2012

La Vuelta: Three Riders To Keep Your Eye On

This years most mountainous Grand Tour begins on Saturday in Spain with a route suited to the grimpeurs (climbing specialists) and naturally the race is being hyped as a battle between Aberto Contador and Christopher Froome. I am pretty sure both will feature prominently in the general classification but this years race has plenty of hidden depths - in fact the Vuelta a Espana could well be the years best Grand Tour as a spectacle. Aside from the obvious battles due to take place there should be plenty more to watch, indeed the Vuelta has a reputation for unearthing new talent. Here are three riders I think we should be keeping an eye on throughout the race, not necessarily as GC hopes but they will certainly provide some interesting entertainment...

Daniel Teklehaimanot (Orica-GreenEDGE)
The WorldTours first Black African will ride his first Grand Tour with Orica-GreenEDGE for whom he was their first signing. Lot's of Firsts. I don't expect the 23 years old (pictured above) to feature in the GC, after all he's only been road cycling since 2005 and it wasn't until 2009 that he was picked up by the UCI and taken from his native Eritreat to be developed in Switzerland at their World Cycling Centre before becoming GreenEDGE's first signing in 2011 to ride for the team in 2012. He has shown promise as a strong time trialist and climber. Finishing 6th in the 2009 Tour de l'Avenir and winning the 2010 Tour of Rwanda were highlights in his early palmares though Daniel has since added an African Time Trial championships last year and more recently a 2nd place in the Mountains Classification of last months Tour of Poland in what is his first year as a pro-cyclist. Not bad vital signs at all. He's a bit of a rough diamond still and I've got him down as an all-rounder, though a bit of work - which I'm sure Orica-GreenEDGE are working on - in certain aspects could see him become a top stage race rider. For a far more detailed look at this rising star, there is a cracking piece over at 'Cycling Tips' which you can read here. I'm looking forward to seeing how he fares in his first grand tour, keep your eyes on this man that's for sure.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Cycling in Europe was a sport born out of the working class and it's been said that 'poor men' win bicycle races. Theres truth in that. Our eyes barely need to look further than the likes of Coppi and Hinault - cyclists born out of poverty who became consistent winners - it's these bare bones that create the drive and determination needed to become a true champion. Nowhere is this more true than Colombia. A country with a rich cycling culture and a recent resurgence in professional talent. Nairo Quintana is one of the new guard taking up the fight on behalf of Colombia. He's 22 but his rugged looks show his past and we could easily mistake him for being 32. He a grimpeur, a pure climber and Colombia is a stronghold for this kind of rider. Except this rider has already garnered praise from his home-nation's president and been described as 'the new Alberto Contador'. Quintana only turned pro in 2010, but this year has already pipped Jon Tiernan-Locke to victory in the Vuelta a Murcia, won the Route du Sud and taken a stage in the Dauphine. That's why I don't really need to explain why this man is worth keeping an eye upon. I'm not sure if he will figure in the GC yet, but he will light up the mountains and i'd certainly have him down for a stage win or two. 'Cycling Inquisition' who champions Colombian cycling, has a good piece on Nairo Quintana here.

Sergio Henao (Sky)
Obvious contenders for this year's vuelta are Contador, Froome and Rodriguez. Sergio Henao, though not obvious, is a contender. Also of Colombian heritage (must be something in the water) Henao is 24 and has been winning races since 2007. You do the maths. He's been working tirelessly for team Sky all year and will continue to do so in the Vuelta as he looks to help Chris Froome through the mountains - thing is, Froome must be getting tired after the Tour and the Olympics? If it's the case then Henao may trade places and find that Froome works for him. Sergio's palmares are in good shape, most notable he finished 9th in this years Giro d'Italia and along the way we have seen flashes of brilliance and glimpses of his true attacking nature. The Tour saw Sky ride tempo to suit the style of Bradley Wiggins, don't expect the Vuelta to be the same. The parcours and riders like Henao, Froome, Uran mean that Sky could well be one of the most attacking teams in the race...

Wherever the above three riders place, they are sure to be good value. The Vuelta has a habit of chucking an unusual mix of riders into the limelight and there will no doubt be plenty of complete unknowns who leave us speechless by the end of the race, just look at last years race, Chris Froome and Juan Jose Cobo? Who knew...

1 comment:

  1. Should be an interesting race. I shall look forward to your coverage. Youre my main cycling news outlet on the road!