The Vuelta a España (August 24-September 15) just keeps getting more interesting.
Although it’s likely Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) is not keen to defend his title, the season’s third grand tour looks to have a stellar field nonetheless.
The latest to confirm a strong Vuelta bid is Italian veteran Ivan Basso (Cannondale). The 35-year-old Basso has only ridden the Vuelta once, finishing fourth overall in his comeback season in 2009.
Basso will have strong ambitions, especially after missing out on both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year. Basso, currently racing at the Tour of Poland, will also race the Vuelta a Burgos next week in northern Spain.
Basso joins a growing legion of GC contenders heading to Galicia later this month for the start of the final grand tour of the year.
Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will bring a top-notch squad to the Spanish tour to ride for the win. Astana team boss Giuseppe Martinelli suggests the Vuelta route, with no less than 12 uphill finales, is the hardest grand tour of the year.
Jakob Fuglsang, seventh at the Tour last month, told VeloNews last week he will likely be racing the Vuelta to support Nibali in all out bid for victory.
Nibali won the Vuelta in 2010 and finished seventh the following year. After deciding to skip the Tour this year to focus on the Giro, Nibali is now taking aim at the Vuelta before the world championships take place on his home roads in Italy.
Other top confirmed starters are Chris Horner, who told VeloNews this week he will be racing the Vuelta to win, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Tour podium man Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).
Basque climbers Igor Antón and Samuel Sánchez are both confirmed for Euskaltel-Euskadi in what will likely be the team’s final grand tour.
Other top names include Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), and Sky’s Colombian duo of Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán.
Contador, meanwhile, has stated the Tour left him exhausted both physically and mentally after finishing fourth overall, and all but assured he will not race to defend his Vuelta crown.
Other major names skipping the Vuelta include Tour winner Chris Froome and Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins. Froome is expected to race the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado while Wiggins will race the Tour of Britain as part of a lead-up to a run for the world time trial title in September.
Cannondale officials also confirmed that Peter Sagan will be racing in Colorado instead of the Vuelta ahead of a run at the rainbow jersey in September.