It’s been a long season on the men’s WorldTour already, but there’s still a number of major races to come in the final months of the season, including one final Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España.
This year’s race kicks off in Barcelona on August 26, culminating in the Spanish capital of Madrid three weeks later. Between those two points though, there’s a whole lot of climbing to be taken on as well as a team time trial and an individual time trial. Despite those races against the clock featuring in the route, this year’s Vuelta is definitely one for the pure climbers with nine summit finishes along the way.
The line-up for this year’s race has a very Giro d’Italia feel to it, with all three of this year’s podium finishers in Italy taking to the start line in Barcelona, as well as one of the Giro’s other early protagonists, and defending champion of the Vuelta, Remco Evenepoel.
Evenepoel faces a much taller order to win this Vuelta compared to his maiden Grand Tour victory last year, particularly with the added presence of two-time Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard.
Whether or not the Dane still has the flying form he had at the Tour remains to be seen, but there’s a compelling list of contenders for him and Evenepoel to do battle with over the three weeks around Spain.
Here are the current favourites for the 2023 Vuelta a España.
Jonas Vingegaard - 13/10
Jonas Vingegaard made his Grand Tour debut at the truncated edition back in 2020, finishing a lowly 46th on GC as he helped Primož Roglič to the overall victory. Since then, out of the three Grand Tours, he’s only ridden the Tour de France and has never finished lower than second. So it’s no wonder the bookies have him as odds-on favourite here.
Nevertheless, exactly how the 26-year-old is faring after an intense effort around France in July is unclear. Vingegaard has never ridden two three-week races in the same year, let alone competed in the general classification in two of them, adding a major question mark to his prospects.
There’s also the issue of who exactly will lead Jumbo-Visma. Roglič is a three-time winner of the Vuelta and would love to secure a record equalling fourth, so any slip in form from Vingegaard will presumably see him pivot to a support role.
That being said, if Vingegaard is still riding at the same level he had at the Tour de France, it’s difficult to see anyone on this list coming close to him in the mountains.
Primož Roglič - 5/2
Even if Primož Roglič is unable to secure a historic fourth Vuelta victory, his season will still have been a major success having won the Giro in dramatic fashion in May. But there’s no doubt the 33-year-old knows how to win here, and would presumably love the full backing of his team in the overall. It looks like he’ll have to share that honour with Vingegaard this year, as Jumbo-Visma hedge their bets in search of a remarkable third Grand Tour victory in the season, but Roglič remains a close second in odds.
The Slovenian will be fresher than his co-leader having only returned to racing in August following the Giro, and looked immediately on strong form at the Vuelta a Burgos in the build-up.
Until winning the final time trial, Roglič didn’t look quite at his irrepressible best throughout the Giro, and would surely prefer a more dominant performance from start to finish at the Vuelta (as he’s displayed previously). This looks potentially like the strongest competition he’s faced in any of the Vueltas he’s ridden though, so if he is able to make it to Madrid in the red jersey, it looks like a very tough road to get there.
Remco Evenepoel - 4/1
After Roglič crashed out on stage 16 of the Vuelta in 2022, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal – Quick-Step) had little to do except make it to the final stage safely to secure his maiden Grand Tour win. Up to that point, the Belgian had shown remarkable form to put over a minute into his more experienced rival, but we’ll never know just how far Roglič could have pushed Evenepoel in the remaining mountain stages.
Evenepoel’s Covid-19 curtailed Giro campaign left us wondering, too, what might have been for the then-world champion, and it means there’s still something of an unknown about how the 23-year-old will perform against top opposition in the third week of a Grand Tour.
In terms of rivals, this Vuelta looks even tougher than the Giro did, and there’s fewer time trials for the new time trial world champion to take advantage of, meaning he’ll need to be at his absolute best in the mountains. As defending champion, there will be even more attention and pressure on whether Evenepoel can succeed in this company. But he’s already proven he’s a phenomenon, capable of winning almost any race. A defence of his title here would be a significant step towards becoming one of the world’s best Grand Tour riders.
Juan Ayuso - 8/1
It’s been a real shame that Juan Ayuso was not able to immediately kick-on at the very start of this season from his success last year. The Spaniard became the youngest ever rider, at just 19, to finish on the podium of the Vuelta when he secured third last year, but a debilitating leg injury saw him miss out on any racing until the end of the spring.
Thankfully it didn’t take him long to refind winning ways on his return to racing at the Tour de Romandie, where he won the individual time trial, following that up with second overall and two stage wins at the Tour de Suisse.
A supremely strong all rounder, Ayuso is almost certainly destined for great things, and has the ability already to possibly secure UAE Team Emirates their first Grand Tour win since 2021.
Geraint Thomas - 18/1
Despite suffering the heartbreak of losing the race lead on the penultimate stage, second place overall at the Giro d’Italia is still a remarkable achievement for Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers). Now 37, it’s been quite outstanding how consistent he has remained in Grand Tours since winning the Tour de France in the 2018, and even in his twilight years remains unwavering in his ability to compete with the sport’s best GC riders.
The Welshman has only competed in the Vuelta once before, in 2015 when he wasn’t contesting the overall, so the race represents a whole new challenge for him. The climbing at the Vuelta almost certainly outstrips most of the Tours and Giri he’s ridden before, so the sheer number of summit finishes will be a new test for one of the most experienced stage racers in the peloton.
It’s hard to envisage exactly how Thomas will go here. It’s rare for him to ride two Grand Tours in a year, but he’s shown throughout his career that when he’s fully up to the challenge he’s difficult to shift from the podium spots.
Enric Mas - 20/1
Having crashed out on the very first stage of the Tour de France in July, there’s not much to go on about how Enric Mas (Movistar) is riding at the moment. But the Spaniard loves his home race; he’s shown that with three second-place finishes since 2018, deservedly handing him a spot in the list of favourites.
It is quite striking how different he seems to appear at the Vuelta. Even after a disappointing Tour in 2022, when he was fully out of GC contention by stage 12, he rebounded at the Vuelta to provide something of a challenge to Evenepoel up to the end of the race.
A formidable climber, the 28-year-old will enjoy the parcours again at this year’s Vuelta, but will still need to ensure he doesn’t lose too much time in the team time trial and the individual time trial. A move from the lower steps of the podium to an overall victory still seems a tough task considering the competition, and the bookies seem to agree.
João Almeida - 33/1
A first Grand Tour stage win and a first overall podium this year at the Giro represented a somewhat watershed moment in the fledgling career of João Almeida. Still just 25, Almeida proved from the start he had the ability to contest in the season’s biggest races, never finishing lower than sixth in any Grand Tour he’s raced so far. But a podium spot had always seemed just out of reach, and his ability to follow attacks at his own metronomic pace defined his success rather than leading from the front.
That finally changed when he beat Geraint Thomas to a mountain-top stage win at the Giro, and though he reverted back to his usual style by the end of the race to secure third overall, it was the first time we’ve seen a more dynamic side to the Portuguese in the longer stage races.
The more explosive nature of the Vuelta possibly suits his UAE Team Emirates teammate Ayuso more than him, but it will be interesting to see how the pair work together again this year. Almeida was still able to finish fifth last year as his younger colleague climbed to third place, and given his record, you’d expect to see him back amongst the top-five finishers again in 2023.
Previous Vuelta podium finisher Hugh Carthy (125/1) will join the EF Education-EasyPost on the lap around Spain, but the Briton has yet to follow up that third place in 2020 with a similar result.
Jay Vine (80/1) is slated to be part of the UAE Team Emirates squad along with Ayuso and Almeida, and was extremely vocal about wanting to target GC while at the Giro earlier this year. The Australian has little history outside of stage wins in the Grand Tours and it’s difficult to see how much support he’ll be afforded given two more established leaders within his team.
Eddie Dunbar (125/1) showed leaving Ineos for Jayco-Alula to gain opportunities in Grand Tours was a wise move after he finished seventh on first attempt in the Giro in May. It’s a Vuelta debut for the Irishman who loves climbing, and another top-10 seems a very real possibility.
Having performed well regularly in week-long stage races, Aleksandr Vlasov (66/1) still has a lot to prove when it comes to Grand Tours. A fourth in the Giro in 2021 and a fifth in the 2022 Tour are strong results, but the Russian has shown to be regularly fallible over the course of three weeks. A podium finish for him at the Vuelta would be a sign he’s progressing towards winning a Grand Tour. He’ll be joined in the Bora-Hansgrohe squad by Lennard Kämna (200/1), whose experiment with riding GC for the first time at the Giro ended in a solid ninth place.