We’re heading towards the finale of the 2023 cycling season and with that comes the last of the three Grand Tours of the year, the Vuelta a España.
The Spanish Grand Tour, running its 78th edition this year, may not have as high a profile of the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia, but August after August it finds itself welcoming the stars of the GC world to take on what is reliably a mountain-packed three weeks of racing.
This year, the Vuelta kicks off in Barcelona for the first time in six decades, with the Vuelta a España route packing in mountain stages to Andorra, the Col du Tourmalet, and the fearsome Alto de l’Angliru along with a 15km TTT and 26km ITT on the road to Madrid.
Barcelona will welcome 18 WorldTour teams, the two top ProTeams of 2022, and two Spanish wildcards on August 26. Among them are a host of big names, including three-time winner Primož Roglič, Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard, home hope Enric Mas, defending champion Remco Evenepoel, and British star Geraint Thomas.
The five are just some of the stars set to take on the Vuelta among the 176 riders filling out the peloton. Find out all you need to know about them and the 22 teams taking on the race with our ultimate Vuelta a España team guide.
With Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard and three-time Vuelta winner (and current Giro d’Italia champion) Primož Roglič lining up at the start in Barcelona, it’s not a stretch to say that Dutch squad Jumbo-Visma are the favourites to take home the red jersey this year.
A win would see the team complete an unprecedented Grand Tour triple in 2023 and confirm them – as if we didn’t know already – as the dominant stage racing force of the current era.
Vingegaard, who introduced himself to many cycling fans with his supporting ride for Roglič at the 2020 Vuelta, confirmed his participation before the end of the Tour. He’ll return there for the first time since that ride, with the question of Jumbo-Visma team leadership likely to dominate the build-up to the race.
The pair, regardless of who ends up as the main contender for the red jersey, will rely on a strong support squad in Spain. The peloton’s top climbing domestique Sepp Kuss is on the team along with Wilco Kelderman, Robert Gesink, and Attila Valter. Jumbo-Visma are undoubtedly the team to beat this Vuelta. (DO)
Along with Vingegaard and Roglič, newly crowned world time trial champion Remco Evenepoel is the other main headliner at this year’s Vuelta.
The defending champion returns to the race a year on from his triumph over Enric Mas and three months on from a disappointing COVID-forced exit from his main goal of the season, the Giro d’Italia.
His 2023 campaign has been far from disappointing, though, with the 23-year-old packing in wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Clásica San Sebastián, two GIro stages, and the UAE Tour along with his second world title.
Evenepoel will head to Spain batting away questions about his future at Soudal-QuickStep, with links to Ineos Grenadiers persisting throughout the summer. His team are looking to build around him for the future, adding to a GC team which isn’t the strongest in the peloton.
Nevertheless, it’s nothing to sniff at, with talented climber Mauri Vansevenant set to feature along with all-rounder Mattia Cattaneo, fifth at the Tour de Pologne and a valuable asset for the opening TTT. Expect other climbers such as Fausto Masnada and Jan Hirt to fill out the lineup, too. (DO)
In the absence of climbing stars Ben O’Connor and Felix Gall, AG2R Citroën Team will be hunting goals other than a high GC placing. Andrea Vendrame is a contender for what few sprinting opportunities there are, Geoffrey Bouchard could attempt to repeat his victory in the King of the Mountains classification from 2019, and American Larry Warbase has been doing altitude training with the intention of targeting breakaways.
Kaden Groves is the star name of an inexperienced Alpecin-Deceuninck line-up lacking both Jasper Philipsen and Mathieu van der Poel. The Australian resumes the role he had at the Giro d’Italia, when he was victorious in a bunch sprint on stage five, but his form is a doubt as he has not won a race since then. If he does have his best legs, he might just be the quickest sprinter in the race.
New recruit Arnaud Démare will not be making his Grand Tour bow for Arkéa-Samsic, perhaps put off by the lack of flat stages on the parcours. The team might have hoped to have former rider Nairo Quintana lead them here had he not left the team at the end of last year under the shadow of a doping disqualification. Instead, they’ll hope riders like promising young climber Kévin Vauquelin and fast finishers Hugo Hofstetter can deliver them results.
Between them, Luis León Sánchez, David de la Cruz, Joe Dombrwski and Fabio Felline boast six Grand Tour stage wins, a King of the Mountains title, and a points classification. The problem for Astana is that most of these achievements came many years ago, and expecting them to repeat them now they are all in their veteran years is a tall order. The
More youthful 24-year-old Samuele Battistella, who finished second in two stages at last year’s edition and was unlucky not to win one, might offer better hope.
As usual, Bahrain-Victorious have assembled a Grand Tour line-up full of climbing talent, with multiple potential GC options, but not one clear leader. It could be Damiano Caruso, who proved during the spring that he can still compete at the age of 35 by placing fourth overall at the Giro d’Italia. 23-year-old Santiago Buitrago is their new young hope, and comes into the race on the back of a near miss at the Vuelta a Burgos and, earlier, a stage win and podium finish at the Giro and Liège–Bastogne–Liège respectively. And can Mikel Landa return to his early season form in what will be his last Grand Tour before leaving the team?
There’s plenty of climbing talent in Bora-Hansgrhoe’s line-up for the Vuelta. Recent Vuelta a Burgos runner-up Aleksandr Vlasov looks set to be their GC leader, as he competes in his first Grand Tour since having to pull out of the Giro earlier this year with illness, and he’ll also be joined by quality climbers Sergio Higuita and Lennard Kämna. There’s also much interest in how 20-year-old former Tour de l’Avenir winner Cian Uijtdebroeks will perform on Grand Tour debut, having impressed and made the top ten at the Tour de Suisse, Tour de Romandie and Volta a Catalunya.
For the sixth year in succession, Burgos BH have been awarded a wildcard entry to the Vuelta. The man who delivered them a stage victory in 2019, Ángel Madrazo, will unfortunately miss the race due to injury, although the team who finished second behind him that day to complete a one-two, Jetse Bol, will be present. Veteran Daniel Navarro is set to compete in his 23rd Grand Tour at the grand old age of 40.
Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
Having missed the Vuelta for the first time since 2012, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA will be back again this year having secured a wildcard invitation. They’re bringing a roster full of young Spanish riders, with Julen Amezqueta and Eduard Prades the only riders over 27-years-old, and Ecuadorian Jefferson Alvaro Cepeda and Venezuelan Orluis Aular rounding off the line-up.
Cofidis bring a roster to the Vuelta that suggests they will look to target the sprint finishes, with Davie Cimolai capable of competing in them, and Bryan Coquard riding off the back of a third-place finish at the Tour de France points classification. But their best hope of success may come from Spaniard Jesús Herrada, who delivered a breakaway victory for the team last year in Cistierna.
This is a team that can often be looked at for young surprise packages, and for the Vuelta they’re handing two British 20-year-olds Grand Tour debuts: Oscar Onley, who recently registered a couple of top-five stage finishes at the Tour of Poland, and Max Poole, who was eleventh and fourth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Romandie respectively. They’ll also have more experience to rely on, as Romani Bardet returns to try again for a GC ride having crashed out of the Tour de France, and Giro stage winner Alberto Dainese targets the sprints.
With Richard Carapaz ruled out having not recovered in time from his crash at the Tour de France, Hugh Carthy is set to lead EF Education-EasyPost’s GC challenge. The Brit enjoyed the best performance of his career here three years ago, when he finished third overall and won the Angliru stage, and has since made the top ten at both the 2021 and 2022 Giro d’Italia. Joining him will be a youthful roster of riders including Stefan Bissegger, Simon Carr, Marijn van den Berg and Andrea Piccolo.
For the first time since the 2022 Giro d’Italia, Groupama-FDJ go into a Grand Tour without either of their stars Thibaut Pinot or David Gaudu to lead them. Instead, there’s an opportunity for Michael Storer to see if he can return to the form that saw him win two stages of the 2021 Vuelta prior to his arrival at the team, and for much-hyped youngsters Romain Grégoire and Lenny Martinez to enjoy some freedom as they make their Grand Tour debuts.
Runner-up from this year’s Giro d’Italia, Geraint Thomas, will lead a strong Ineos team to challenge the defending champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) and the Jumbo Visma duo of Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard.
The former Tour de France winner has only competed at the Vuelta once previously in his career, and returns to the Spanish Grand Tour eight years after his last appearance there.
He’ll be joined by Egan Bernal, Filippo Ganna and Thymen Arensman. The latter finished sixth in last year’s Vuelta before joining the British team where he maintained his solid Grand Tour form with another sixth on GC at the 2023 Giro.
Thomas, Bernal and Arensman will be supported in the mountains by Ganna, Laurens De Plus, Kim Heiduk, Omar Fraile and Jonathan Castroviejo. (JM)
Still searching for their first Grand Tour stage win of the season having found success at both the Giro and Vuelta last year, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty turns to a mixture of experience in former multiple stage winners Rui Costa and Rein Taaramäe, and youth in promising young talents Hugo Page and Rune Herregodts. But their best hope for a win might be Gerben Thijsssen, who was second during a stage at the 2020 edition and is on paper one of the fastest sprinters in the race.
Emboldened by his seventh-place finish from the Giro d’Italia earlier this year, Eddie Dunbar will again lead the line for Jayco-AlUla at the Vuelta. Considering that he reached as high as fourth-place overall during that race before falling back in the final three days, the Irishman may believe he can go even better this time. Among the riders supporting him will be Filippo Zanna, who won a stage himself at the Giro, and Matteo Sobrero, who may fancy his chances of winning the mid-race time trial.
Despite lacking an obvious leader for the GC, Lidl-Trek will bring a line-up brimming with promise to the Vuelta. Giulio Ciccone and Juan Pedro López offer climbing talent in the mountains, and could challenge for a high overall placing, while former stage winner Bauke Mollema is poised to ride his first Vuelta since 2018.
Although Lotto-Dstny aren’t repeating what they did at the Giro d’Italia, when they declined an invitation to ride, they are far from sending their a-list riders to the Vuelta, with Caleb Ewan, Arnaud De Lie and Victor Campanaerts all missing. Fan favourite Tomas De Gendt will be present though as he competes in his first Grand Tour of the season, as will puncheur Andreas Kron and sprinter Milan Menten.
Enric Mas will again lead Movistar’s challenge at the Vuelta a España, as the Spanish team looks to make an impact in their home Grand Tour. Mas will be eager to perform having had to pull out of the Tour de France on the opening day following a crash, but his form is unknown having not raced since then. Among those Joining him will be climbers Carlos Verona, Einer Rubio and Ruben Guerreiro, plus Spanish champion Oier Lazkano, fresh from his stage win at the Vuelta a Burgos.
French outfit TotalEnergies are set to be led by Pierre Latour. Returning to the Vuelta for the first time since 2019, Latour’s one and only Grand Tour stage win came here back in 2016, but though he looked in good shape at the Tour de France recently (where he placed second behind Michael Woods on the Puy de Dôme stage) it’s unclear how well he has recovered from those efforts.
UAE Team Emirates
Star name Tadej Pogačar might have ruled himself out, stating that he needs a break having raced competitively since February, but UAE Team Emirates nevertheless have a very strong squad for the Vuelta that looks more than capable of challenging for overall victory. Last year’s podium finisher Juan Aysuso will again be joined by João Almeida, who was fifth last year and achieved his first ever Grand Tour podium earlier this year with third at the Giro d’Italia. Jay Vine provides an option either as a third wildcard option in the GC or a climbing super-domestique, while Juan Sebastián Molano will hope to get some opportunities in the sprint having recently taken a stage win at the Vuelta a Burgos.