Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Vuelta history: Two podiums in five Vuelta starts
Strengths: Consistency and experience will help keep Sánchez within striking distance of the favorites. He’s one of the most intelligent riders in the bunch, so he will be able to exploit any openings that come his way.
Why he can win: He skipped the Tour to race the Vuelta and worlds in top condition. Like Rodríguez, this Vuelta could be his last realistic chance to win. And with Euskaltel folding at season’s end, he’ll be doubly motivated to ride well to secure a solid contract for 2014. Winning the Vuelta would provide excellent job security.
Where he can lose: Father time is catching up, and Sánchez doesn’t seem to have the same hunger that he did when he won the 2008 Olympic road race or the king of the mountains jersey in the 2010 Tour.