Primoz Roglic has been named the favourite to win the Vuelta a Espana after several big names decided to skip it.
Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Tom Dumoulin, Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali are among the superstars that will be absent from the race, which begins in Torrevieja on Saturday. That could lead to a thrillingly unpredictable contest, but Roglic is the clear favourite after enjoying a strong year in the saddle.
The sportsbooks have assigned odds of 7/4 to Roglic, which leaves him ahead of Miguel Angel Lopez and Richard Carapaz in the betting. He leads a strong, eight-man Jumbo-Visma squad and he will be flanked by key lieutenants Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett. The former finished third at the Tour de France and the latter was 24th, and Jumbo-Visma took four stages in total during the race. Now this talented, hard-working team will be keen to secure victory in a major event, and Roglic is the man to lead the charge.
He has been on an intriguing journey over the past few years, developing from a time triallist into a genuine Grand Tour contender. He announced himself as a force to be reckoned with at the Tour de France last year, when he secured a fourth placed finish after surging to victory in the final mountain stage. He began 2019 by seizing the UAE Tour and he carried a three-race winning streak into the Giro d’Italia. He looked as they he would win it, but he ended up third behind Carapaz and Nibali.
Roglic ran out of steam during the mountain stages of that race, but he should be well rested and ready to mount a determined push for glory in Spain.
Jumbo-Visma used a multi-pronged approach at the Tour, but they are expected to rally around Roglic for this one. New Zealander Bennet has two top-10 finishes to his name in Grand Tours, and he will be a formidable ally alongside Kruijswijk for Roglic. The Slovenian should also be able to count on strong support from Robert Gesink, who has three top-10 finishes the Vuelta a Espana under his belt. Climbing strength will arrive come from Sep Kuss and Neilson Powless, while Lennard Hofstede and Tony Martin will also help the cause.
Roglic has previously declared that he will learn from his eventual struggles in Verona. “After the war, you can always be smart about what to do differently, about what we can change and improve,” he said. “But I’m super happy and proud of this Giro d’Italia. Also, the first part of the season, with all the races I did. For sure I learn these moments and I will try to take something out of it. We all learn quite some things with the whole team when we do this three-week race. We need to do some analysis, maybe with the food, and what I did wrong, then we can come back and do even better.”
The stars have aligned for Roglic to go on and win this race, as Bernal and Thomas will miss it, while Froome remains injured. Yet he faces stern competition from Movistar, whose line-up boasts former winner Nairo Quintana and Carapaz,who won the Giro d’Italia, finishing 2 minutes and 30 seconds clear of Roglic. Carapaz is expected to join Ineos next season, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the dynamic within Movistar, but he will certainly be in the mix in Spain. Quintana makes an interesting long-shot at 20/1, while Lopez – the only returning podium finisher from last year – cannot be written off. It also remains to be seen if Roglic will have one eye on the world time trial, which takes place in Yorkshire next month. This should all contribute to a fascinating, gripping race and right now it is hard to call a winner.