Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez (Katusha)
Vuelta history: Going into his 10th Vuelta start, his career-best was third last year.
Strengths: Purito’s slight build makes him an ideal climber for Spain’s mix of mountainous terrain. Some of the climbs are longer grinders, where he can stay with the best and then pip them at the line for time bonuses. Other climbs are brutally steep, and he’s almost untouchable when the gradient punches above 15 percent.
Why he can win: With a new generation coming up, this could be Rodríguez’s last chance to win a grand tour. This route seems almost specifically designed for him, with a blend of short, punchy summits mixed in with longer, steeper climbs. The hilly time trial means that he shouldn’t lose too much time against the clock, and Katusha brings a loaded squad. This Vuelta is Purito’s to lose.
Where he can lose: Rodríguez may have dug too deep fighting through the final week of a brutal Tour to realize a dream of reaching the podium, with third. He admitted in an interview last week that he was feeling more fatigued than he expected. If he’s not at the top of his game, those same mountains that typically suit him so well could prove his executioner.