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Who will win the 2017 Vuelta a Espana? We look at the favourites

Joe Robinson
17 Aug 2017

With the final Grand Tour fast approaching, we take a look at who could win the red jersey.

This Saturday will mark the start of the Vuelta a Espana, the final Grand tour of the season. After three weeks of racing, one rider will stand head and shoulders above the rest in Madrid as the victor. 

Often the hardest of all three Grand tours to predict, the Vuelta has produced surprise winners in the likes of Chris Horner and Juan Jose Cobo in recent memory.

With riders preferring to target the Tour de France, the Vuelta can be an after-thought. 

With it being so unpredictable, the Vuelta has also allowed itself to be the race that places new riders into the spotlight.

The likes of Tom Dumoulin and Esteban Chaves burst onto the scene here in 2015 with Fabio Aru taking his maiden Grand tour in Spain that year. 

This year sees a mighty line-up take to the start in Nimes, France on the 19th August. Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) will be looking to do the double with victory at the Vuelta whilst the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) will be looking to salvage below-par seasons. 

Below, we take a look at the riders we think will be in with a shot at overall victory come the 10th of September.

Vuelta a Espana 2017: The favourites

1. Chris Froome (Team Sky)

The obvious pick. If you were a betting man or woman, you would be placing most of your money on the Kenyan-born Brit.

The Team Sky leader won the yellow jersey with relative ease, and is self-admittedly entering the 2017 Vuelta a Espana fresher than on previous editions. 

Whilst history suggests that the double is unlikely, Froome has been very close in the past. Second in last year's race proved that the Tour-Vuelta is possible, and if it was not for a day to forget in Formigal, it would have most likely been Froome in red in Madrid. 

Last year was Froome's third runner-up spot in six years proving that this race certainly suits his attributes.

Being one of the world's best climbers, the fearsome mountains that litter the Vuelta often suit Froome.

With the route returning to climbs that have seen Froome perform well in the past, it is hard to see the 32-year-old faltering. 

Additionally, the Vuelta contains a 42km flat time trial, something that will suit Froome more than his General Classification rivals.

In 2016, Froome put 2 minutes 16 into closest rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on a similar course, proving the significance of the time against the clock. 

Our verdict:

If Chris Froome can escape any hiccups throughout the three weeks, this could prove a formality.

His fourth Tour de France victory was not as tight as the result suggests, and if his claims that he will be riding this Vuelta fresher are true, he is the clear favourite. 

One drawback could be the team he has around him. Very much the downfall last year, Team Sky can never replicate the strength of their Tour de France team, preventing them from taking an iron grasp of the Vuelta. 

Yet with Wout Poels, Diego Rosa and Mikel Nieve arriving on the start line, the issues surrounding team strength may not acually be an issue.

If this is the case, Froome is the clear favourite for the red jersey in Madrid. 

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)

There is often a tendency to write off the chances of Vincenzo Nibali. Unfairly, the Italian is never placed on the same pedestal as Froome, Quintana or Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).

A quick scan of his record should dispel any myth that Nibali is not an A-grade Grand Tour rider.

Part of an elite band of riders to have won all three gof the sport's biggest events, the 32-year-old knows what it takes to win the Vuelta. 

The experience of winning Grand Tours counts for a lot, and Nibali has this in abundance.

Proof being Stages 19 and 20 of the 2016 Giro d'Italia when using this rich bed of experience, he managed to wear down race leader Esteban Chaves over two mountain days, before taking the pink on the penultimate day of the race. 

What often distinguishes the Sicilian from his GC rivals is a skillset broader than most others. Noted as one of the best descenders in the world, Nibali has also produced world-class time trial performances when needed as well as outstanding rides in the wet. 

Only Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the current WorldTour peloton can join Nibali in claiming a Monument as well as a Grand Tour, further proving the versatility of the Bahrain-Merida man. 

Our verdict:

We think that Vincenzo Nibali will be the biggest threat to Froome at this year's Vuelta a Espana. 

With no Tour de France in his legs, Nibali will be fresher than many of the other GC men, which could prove pivotal considering the Italian's pedigree.

A few epic days in the mountain from Nibali, which he is no stranger to, could see him clinch the red jersey. 

The only drawback for Nibali is that he is guaranteed to be chasing time from Stage 1. The 13.8km team time trial that opens this year's Vuelta is bound to see Nibali drop seconds to rivals with teams better versed in this discipline. 

3. Fabio Aru (Astana)

Surprisingly, the bookies have Fabio Aru at 18/1, only sixth favourite. Aru even sits behind teammate Miguel Angel Lopez.

This may come as a surprise considering he is a former Vuelta champion, an achievement that even Froome is yet to earn. 

Aru's previous track record at the Vuelta speaks for itself. Having raced twice, Aru has taken overall victory alongside a fifth place.

This certainly suggests Aru knows how to race the Vuelta.

As a previous winner of the race, Aru has to be considered as one of the main protagonists for red in Madrid.

With his only Grand Tour success coming in Spain, history may repeat itself for the Sardinian. 

The Italian national champion rode a good Tour de France last month, bagging a stage victory as well as two days in yellow.

Despite fading in the third week, the form and ability for three-week racing was clearly apparent.

With the Vuelta being much more unpredictable than the Tour, Aru's attacking nature could pay dividends, especially if the likes of Froome or Nibali are unable to complete the three weeks of racing. 

Our verdict:

Fabio Aru is hard character to judge. When you least expect him to perform, he often does. 

A knee injury earlier in the season prevented him taking on his main goal of the Giro d'Italia but then led to a national champions jersey and stage win at the Tour.

Aru now enters the Vuelta, a race that has proven to suit him in the past. 

If the Vuelta gets messy, which it often does, the off-camber nature of Aru may see him sneak into red.

If he can bank time before Stage 16's time trial, there will be a distinct possibility of victory for the 27-year-old Italian.

The Underdog 

4. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)

Personal tragedy and injury have made this a tough year for Esteban Chaves. The Colombian will now be looking towards the Vuelta a Espana for some redemption before the season draws to a close. 

Last season was an important year for Chaves, taking podiums at both the Vuelta and Giro d'Italia alongside the win at Il Lombardia.

These results cemented the calibre of rider Chaves is, bringing him to the forefront of our minds when we consider GC contenders. 

Chaves opted to skip the Giro in order to learn how to ride the Tour de France. Injury and tragedy meant that his team removed any pressure from the 27-year-old and allowed him to ride his own race.

This resulted in a lowkey 62nd on GC. 

Having raced the Tour, Chaves will have condition without the fatigue that comes along with boxing it out for overall success.

This could manifest itself into a Chaves that is in peak condition come the Vuelta on Saturday. 

With a team that boasts the Yates twins, Orica-Scott will be a force to be reckoned with, and Chaves may just be the master plan. 

Our verdict:

It is only a matter of time before Chaves takes his maiden Grand Tour. The Vuelta suits the Colombian, and it would be no surprise if he took the overall victory. 

Much rests on the condition he is in after the Tour. If injury concerns have been put to bed, Chaves should be able to fight it out with the best, something he has done repeatedly in his short career. 

The ace in his pack could be the team he rides alongside in Spain. With both Adam and Simon Yates riding, Chaves will have plenty of support in the mountains, something that may not be shared by his closest rivals. 

A potential podium will certainly not be out of the question. 

The Outside Bet

5. Marc Soler (Movistar) 

With a lack of Nairo Quintana or Alejandro Valverde to support at this year's Vuelta a Espana, Movistar could find themselves at a loose end. 

It has been a while since the Spanish WorldTour side has raced a Grand Tour without a favourite for overall victory, and therefore we could see some alternative riding from the men in blue and green.

One rider who could prosper from this is Marc Soler. 

Only 23-years-old, Soler is a prospect for the future with serious pedigree. With no real team leader, this Vuelta may give the young rider a chance he may not have otherwise been given. 

Soler is a previous winner of the Tour de l'Avenir, seen as the under 23 Tour de France, which puts his stage race ability in good stead.

Winners of the Tour de l'Avenir usually go on to produce on the biggest stage. Just ask former winners Nairo, Chaves and Warren Barguil. 

Third overall at the Volta a Catalunya and eighth at the Tour de Suisse this season have shown us that Soler is making this transition to the WorldTour and this month's Vuelta could just be the race that propels him to the fore.

Our verdict:

Marc Soler will not win the Vuelta a Espana, we know, but he does have a genuine chance at making a name for himself. 

It is rare that Movistar race a Grand Tour without a genuine contender, so this could be the only chance Soler gets for a while to prove his ability.

If he can stick with the like of Froome and Nibali for as long a possible in the mountains, then a high placing beckons. 

The calibre of rider at this year's Vuelta is high, and therefore even the podium will be a tall ask.

Yet, with clear climbing talent, Soler may be able to shine on certain mountain days as well as on GC.