Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Vuelta history: Winner in 2009; three podiums; seven stage wins and one TTT; points jersey in 2012
Strengths: The “Green Bullet” brings a full quiver of skills, with the double punch of being able to climb with the best, and then finish it off with a lethal finish-line kick. Movistar will bring one of the strongest teams to the Vuelta, and with Nairo Quintana savoring his Tour success back in Colombia, the team is all for Valverde.
Why he can win: Settling scores. After losing out on a chance at the Tour podium when he suffered a mechanical and then bled 10 minutes in the crosswinds in the Tour’s second week, Valverde comes to the Vuelta intent on victory. He has a score to settle with last year’s Vuelta as well, when a week-one crash in crosswinds (again) knocked him out of the leader’s jersey, before he battled back to finish second.
Where he can lose: The Tour and last year’s Vuelta confirmed yet again that Valverde often makes life difficult for himself, either with bad luck, crashes, or being out of position. If the “Imbatido” can avoid that one bad day, he’ll be hard to beat.