The third Grand Tour of the cycling season got underway this past weekend in Spain, where the Vuelta a Espana launched amidst plenty of excitement and anticipation. But those hoping that Team Sky’s dominance would come to an end after four straight wins in the Grand Tours may be disappointed, even though Chris Froome and 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas aren’t participating.
The first two days of the Vuelta saw many of its contenders fall by the wayside, dashing the hopes for riders like Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis even before the three-week race truly gets underway. Both gave up massive time on the first day out on the road and even though there is plenty of riding yet to come, it seems as though they are already too far back to truly be a threat.
The current leader of the race is none other than Michal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky. The most dominant squad in cycling looked to be an afterthought for the race once it was announced that neither Froome nor Thomas would be in attendance. But in the opening days of the Vuelta, Kwiatkowski, who says he is hoping to develop into a GC contender, has ridden strong, finishing near the top in both the prologue and the first few stages. His performance so far is an indication of just how strong Sky is as a team, explaining a large part of their dominance in recent years.
That said, this is a long race and there is still a lot of riding and climbing to go. Lurking not too far behind Kwiatkowski are some names that are likely to test him in the days ahead, including Alejandro Valverde, Tony Gallopin, and Nairo Quintana, who are second, eighth, and ninth respectively heading into the third stage. Simon Yates is also looming, as are a few other potential heirs to the Red Jersey, which is handed out to the race leader and winner.
While it doesn’t receive nearly the same level of attention as the Tour de France, the Vuelta is still a challenging race, made all the more difficult due to is placement on the calendar. Coming late in the season, many of the riders are tired and nursing nagging injuries from a busy schedule that typically starts way back in April and includes two other three-week long epics. That makes this a fairly wide open contest, with a number of contenders looking to leave their mark. Plus, with Peter Sagan in the race this year for the first time in awhile, it should at least be very entertaining to watch.
I won’t post too many updates on the race, but will still keep an eye on the proceedings. You can find out more at the Vuelta’s official website.
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