The 2022 Vuelta a España is the final Grand Tour of the year and has a star-studded line-up which could make it one of the most exciting editions in the race's history. Defending champion Primož Roglič starts as favourite, but there are question marks over his form following his crashes in the Tour de France a few months ago. The likes of Jai Hindley, Richard Carapaz, Remco Evenepoel and João Almeida will be hot on the Slovenian rider’s heels, keen to capitalise on any signs of weakness to snatch the rojo jersey for themselves.
Of the 182 riders who are expected to start in Utrecht on Friday, eleven of them are British. Among the contingent who will fly the Union Jack flag are some key GC contenders, most notably Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange, but also Tao Geoghegan Hart of Ineos Grenadiers and Hugh Carthy of EF Education EasyPost. There are also a number of Brits who could contest stage wins and get in breakaways, as well as find themselves up front for bunch sprints. With this in mind, those watching from the UK should have plenty to cheer about when watching the race from home.
Here’s a list of all the British riders competing in the 2022 Vuelta a España, their strengths and weaknesses, plus how we can expect them to make their mark throughout the three-week event.
Hugh Carthy, EF Education-EasyPost
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An out-and-out climber, Hugh Carthy is a rider who will be hoping to repeat his 2020 performance at the Vuelta a España in 2022. It was then that Carthy finished third overall in the race and won a stage up the infamous Angliru climb. Since that year, Carthy has secured two top-10 positions on the general classification in the Giro d’Italia in 2021 and 2022, but has yet to stand on a Grand Tour podium again. Carthy could be EF Education EasyPost’s joint leader with Rigoberto Urán for the overall this year and the road will decide who the eventual leader ends up being for the American team. Either way, Carthy will be wanting to prove that his 2020 result was no fluke, and he is of the quality to compete with the best climbers in the world.
Simon Yates, Team BikeExchange-Jayco
Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange-Jayco is the most likely rider on our list of Brits to take the overall victory at the 2022 Vuelta a España. He won the race in 2018 and won two stages of the Giro d’Italia earlier this season before retiring from the race due to knee issues. Since then, Yates has raced three times and has won on two occasions: in the Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika and the Vuelta a Castilla y León. He also finished in sixth place at the one-day Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa. All of these results point to a steady and solid return to form for the 30-year-old rider, and give a strong indication that he is one to watch for the overall at this year’s Vuelta. His team will be fully behind him to win and the route is well-suited to Yates’ strength.
Jake Stewart, Groupama-FDJ
Image: Getty/Bas Czerwinski
It was only a few weeks ago at the Tour de l'Ain that 23-year-old Jake Stewart secured his first ever professional victory. This will no doubt have given him confidence as he heads into the first Grand Tour of his career: the 2022 Vuelta a España. Stewart is a rider who excels in bunch sprints, but he often needs a harder race to reduce the group and get rid of some of the pure sprinters. There are plenty of stages at the 2022 Vuelta that fit this description, which means that Stewart could have multiple chances to go for victory. It will be interesting to monitor how the British rider deals with the cumulative fatigue during a three-week event, especially since it is the first time he’ll take on such a big feat. If he can get there safely and recover well enough, Stewart could also be one to watch in the race’s final stage around Madrid’s city centre.
Ethan Hayter, Ineos Grenadiers
It’s almost surprising to realise that this is 22-year-old Ethan Hayter’s first Grand Tour. Hayter is one of the biggest talents to come out of British Cycling in recent years, already with victories in shorter stage races like the Tour of Poland and the Tour of Norway to his name. The British rider can climb with some of the best if the mountains aren’t too long, but he also has an incredibly powerful sprint at the end of a tough race. Some have likened his attributes to those of Wout van Aert, and the duo have often been sprinting head-to-head in stage races past. Hayter will be looking for opportunities to sprint at this year’s Vuelta a España and will probably be his team’s chosen rider to support in the flatter stages. Similarly to Stewart, Hayter also performs better after a hillier stage – he doesn’t always have the turn of speed to outsprint the purest of fast men in a straightforward kick to the line.
Fred Wright, Bahrain-Victorious
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Bahrain-Victorious rider Fred Wright made a name for himself at this year’s Tour de France especially by getting in multiple breakaways and securing a second place behind Mads Pedersen on stage 13. Despite only being 23-years-old, this year’s Vuelta a España will be Wright’s fourth Grand Tour, which means he is prepared for what is to come over the next three weeks. Competing in both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España is still a big ask for any rider, though, so it remains to be seen if Wright can hold onto the form he showed in the Tour. If he does, we can expect to see him in action on some of the punchier stages that are prime breakaway terrain: the Brit is an extremely versatile rider who can sprint, time trial and perform well on shorter climbs. Wright himself has admitted that he has become a marked rider after his exploits in France so getting into the break of the day has started to be more of a challenge.
Tao Geoghegan Hart, Ineos Grenadiers
2020 Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart enters the Vuelta a España in a support role for Ineos Grenadiers’ team leader Richard Carapaz. The 27-year-old has displayed a solid return to form this season with a fifth place in the Tour of Norway and two top-five finishes in stages of the Vuelta Burgos, but he is yet to be trusted with a leadership opportunity at any Grand Tours so far this year. Geoghegan Hart does excel in the role of a mountain domestique, forming an integral part of the classic Ineos Grenadiers mountain train which is known to whittle down the bunch as the race heads into the hills. Should Richard Carapaz face any injury or illness during the three weeks, the team could turn to Geoghegan Hart to take up the mantle as team leader. With this in mind, the Brit will want to maintain a high position on the general classification in the earlier stages to ensure that he’s available to fight for the overall win if asked to by his team.
Ben Turner, Ineos Grenadiers
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Ben Turner forms part of a young contingent of riders who have joined the Ineos Grenadiers this year and made waves in the earlier part of the season. Turner was an integral part of Dylan van Baarle’s Paris-Roubaix win at the start of the year, and has had some formidable results himself, including a top-10 in both Brabantse Pijl and Dwars door Vlaanderen. Turner will be an asset to Richard Carapaz on the flat and middle moutain stages of this year’s Vuelta a España, able to keep the Ecuadorian rider well-positioned and out of danger. He’ll also be in his element controlling breakaways and pulling back moves, and can climb well enough to make it through the punchier stages. This is his first Grand Tour, however, so we can expect him to be using it to soak up experience and see how he responds to three weeks of racing.
Chris Froome, Israel Premier Tech
Froome is a rider who needs little introduction. The 37-year-old has won four Tour de France titles in his career as well as two Vuelta a Españas and one Giro d’Italia. Three ago he suffered a training crash which almost cost him his life – a broken pelvis, femur and four ribs, plus the loss of four pints of blood just a few of the injuries he sustained, but he’s looked to be returning to form so far in 2022. At the Tour de France a few weeks ago, he finished third on the stage to Alpe d’Huez after a day in the breakaway before having to unfortunately retire from the race due to a positive Covid-19 test on stage 18. Froome’s performance at the Tour will have given him confidence for the Vuelta, both in terms of fighting for stage wins and going for the overall general classification. His recovery from Covid is unknown, though, so it remains to be seen whether there will be any long-term effects from the illness.
Mark Donovan, Team DSM
Image: Getty/Luc Claessen
23-year-old Mark Donovan is a rider who has been consistently chipping away at his career, despite perhaps not making the headlines in ways that Hayter and Stewart have. Donovan is yet to secure a professional win, but he’s a strong climber who has achieved some solid results on tough mountain stages in previous seasons. This year’s Vuelta a España will be the British rider's third Grand Tour, as he rode the Vuelta in 2020 and was selected to ride the Tour de France for Team DSM in 2021. In his first Tour de France last year, Donovan secured an impressive 14th place on the tough stage to Andorra la Vella which was won by Sepp Kuss. It’s in stages like this where we can expect the British rider to thrive: when large breakaways go early in the stage and are given the chance to fight it out for the stage victory in the mountains. It remains to be seen if Donovan will be riding for GC or stage wins in this year’s Vuelta a España.
James Shaw, EF Education-EasyPost
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Nottingham-born James Shaw returned to the men’s WorldTour peloton this year after three seasons riding at ProContinental and Continental level, most recently with UK-based team Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling in 2021. It was impressive performances at races like the Tour of Britain that meant Shaw caught the eye of EF Education EasyPost team boss Jonathan Vaughters and secured a two year contract with the team until 2023. A top-10 in the overall classification of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var at the start of the season was a good start to Shaw’s time with EF Education, and he’s performed consistently since then. He’s a climber who is more suited to the shorter, Ardennes-style hills – of which there are many at the Vuelta this year. Shaw will also be an asset to the team’s mountain goats in the hardest stages of the race as a solid domestique for the lower slopes of long climbs.
Daniel McLay, Team Arkéa Samsic
Image: Getty Images/Dario Belingheri
30-year-old Dan McLay is a strong sprinter who will be targeting the opening flat days of the 2022 Vuelta a España before the race heads to the hills. McLay hasn’t had a win this season, but he’s secured some solid results so far this year. These include a fourth place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the 1.1 registered event Heylen Vastgoed Heistse Pijl. Usually in a Grand Tour, McLay would also work in the flat stages and early parts of hilly stages to protect the team’s GC hopeful, Nairo Quintana. However, the Colombian rider has decided not to start the race after the news came out that he had tested positive for Tramadol during the Tour de France. While Quintana is not banned from racing as the substance is not on the WADA prohibited list, he stated he does not have the “head to race.” This means McLay will have ultimate freedom to go for his own results and it will be interesting to see how he performs in these conditions.
Cover image: Zac Williams/SWpix