Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
The Basque climber is the rider that tops just about everyone’s favorite’s list, and for good reason. Last year, Antón looked to have the Vuelta under control when he crashed and broke his elbow in a freak accident on the road to the Peña Cabarga stage in northern Spain. He was the race leader and won two stages, and looked to have things firmly in control. That crash reminded Antón that nothing can be taken for granted in cycling.
Antón skipped racing the Tour de France and prepared exclusively for a run at the red leader’s jersey at the Vuelta. He won the stage up Monte Zoncolan in the Giro d’Italia in May, confirming yet again his climbing credentials.
“I am not discounting anything. The goal this year is to win the Vuelta, so why not just say it? Whether that happens remains to be seen, of course, but I am confident that I am ready to take the next step,” Antón said. “Last year’s Vuelta is already forgotten. What could have happened doesn’t really matter. I crashed and broke my elbow, but I was lucky. It could have been much worse. I’ve had no complications from the crash and come into the Vuelta with good sensations.”
Question marks remain about Antón’s time trialing abilities. The long TT at Salamanca could put him in the back seat, especially against strong riders like Denis Menchov or Brad Wiggins, but Antón believes that the Vuelta will be won in the final week.
“The last week in the mountains of northern Spain should decide the race,” he said. “There are some very hard stages and whoever is strongest there should have the best chances to win. Having the time trial earlier in the race favors the climbers, but having such a long course certainly doesn’t favor me. I know I will give up time.”
- Pros: Strong climber, motivated to win first “grande”
- Cons: Tendency to crash out of the Vuelta; TT doubts
Antón will have the support of a strong Euskaltel-Euskadi team, which brings a squad loaded with climbers and experienced hands like Egoi Martínez to protect their crash-prone leader. If Antón can stay upright and limit his losses in Salamanca, he’s the man to beat in this Vuelta.