Injury, a host of former Grand Tour winners and one of cycling’s rising stars means Roglic faces stiff competition as he defends his crown
Roglic has won the last three editions of La Vuelta (Photo: Getty)
By Felix Lowe
Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic faces stiff competition in his bid to become the first man in history to win four successive editions of the Vuelta a Espana.
A month after pulling out of the Tour de France with a fractured vertebrae, 32-year-old Roglic will spearhead Team Jumbo-Visma’s challenge in the absence of their Danish Tour winner, Jonas Vingegaard.
The last two riders to win La Vuelta prior to Roglic’s Spanish hat-trick – British duo Chris Froome and Simon Yates – will be present at the start on Friday in the Dutch city of Utrecht, alongside Australia’s Jai Hindley, the reigning Giro d’Italia champion, and two former Giro winners in Ineos Grenadiers teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart of Britain and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz.
A stellar start-list also includes the Italian Vincenzo Nibali, a winner of all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, who won his home race back in 2009.
If these two veterans are making their last ever appearance in a major stage race before retirement, then a more likely and sprightly contender for Roglic’s crown may come in the form of rising star Remco Evenepoel.
Evenepoel, a 22-year-old Belgian all-rounder who already has 33 professional wins to his name, remains unproven over three-week races. There are also doubts surrounding his ability to stick with the best climbers on long and steep ascents.
But an atypical route for the 77th edition of La Vuelta could well play into his hands – with fewer of the traditional double-digit gradients on the menu, only one climb rising above 2,000 metres, and a long, flat time trial at the start of week two.
La Vuelta 2022 stage guide
- Stage 1 – 19 August – Utrecht to Utrecht – 23.2km – Team Time Trial
- Stage 2 – 20 August – ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Utrecht – 175.1km – Flat
- Stage 3 – 21 August – Breda to Breda – 193.5km – Flat
- Rest Day – 22 August
- Stage 4 – 23 August – Votoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia – 152.5km – Medium mountains
- Stage 5 – 24 August – Irun to Bilbao – 187.2km – Medium mountains)
- Stage 6 – 25 August – Bilbao to Pico Jano (San Miguel de Aguayo) – 181.2km – Summit finish
- Stage 7 – 26 August – Camargo to Cistierna – 190km – Medium mountains
- Stage 8 – 27 August – La Pola Llaviana to Collau Fancuaya – 153.4km – Summit finish
- Stage 9 – 28 August – Villaviciosa to Les Praeres – 171.4km – Summit finish
- Rest Day – 29 August
- Stage 10 – 30 August – Elche to Alicante – 30.9km – Individual Team Trial
- Stage 11 – 31 August – ElPozo Alimentacion to Cabo de Gata – 191.2km – Flat
- Stage 12 – 1 September – Salobrena to Penas Blancas – 192.7km – Summit finish
- Stage 13 – 2 September – Ronda to Montilla – 168.4km – Flat
- Stage 14 – 3 September – Montoro to Sierra de La Pandera – 160.3km – Summit finish
- Stage 15 – 4 September – Martos to Alto Hoya de la Mora, Sierra Nevada – 149.6km (Summit finish
- Rest Day – 5 September
- Stage 16 – 6 September – Sanlucar de Barrameda to Tomares – 189.4km – Flat
- Stage 17 – 7 September – Aracena to Monasterio de Tentudia – 162.3km – Uphill finish
- Stage 18 – 8 September – Trujillo to Alto del Piornal – 192km – Summit finish
- Stage 19 – 9 September – Talavera de la Reina to Talavera de la Reina – 138.3km – Medium mountains
- Stage 20 – 10 September – Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada – 181km – Mountains
- Stage 21 – 11 September – Las Rozas to Madrid – 96.7km – Flat
A specialist against the clock, Evenepoel is the Belgian time trial champion and a winner of nine stage races in his illustrious career so far. This year he also picked up a maiden victory in one of cycling’s Monuments by winning the prestigious one-day Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic.
So exciting a prospect is Evenepoel that many in his native Belgium see him as a natural successor to the great Eddy Merckx – although he still has a long way to go until he can match the heights of his compatriot Wout van Aert, who excelled on his way winning the green jersey in July’s Tour.
Evenepoel celebrates his recent victory in San Sebastian (Photo: Getty)
Evenepoel came close to wearing the pink jersey in his debut Giro last year before withdrawing in the final week following a crash and some struggles in the Dolomites. Fifteen months on, there is a growing sense that the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider is now ready to fulfil his potential.
Roglic’s crown is certainly up for grabs. On paper, the Slovenian is the outright favourite for a historic fourth consecutive win. But Roglic has not yet ridden competitively since being forced out of the Tour following a dislocated shoulder and back injury sustained in stage 5. The 2020 Tour runner-up soldiered on for nine more stages before abandoning, only to return to training two weeks before the start of the defence of his Vuelta crown.
Evenepoel is by no means the only rider capable of ruffling Roglic’s red feathers. Carapaz, the Olympic champion and winner of the 2019 Giro, has a point to prove after finishing just 24 seconds shy of the Slovenian in 2020, while Portugal’s Joao Almeida – twice a top 10 finisher in the Giro – will lead UAE Team Emirates in the absence of two-time Tour champion Tadej Pogacar.
Spanish climbers Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Enric Mas (Movistar), Australian duo Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ben O’Connor (Ag2R-Citroen), and Britain’s Yates will all believe in their podium chances, while the American uphill specialist Sepp Kuss, eighth last year for Jumbo-Visma, will be on hand as a back-up plan should teammate Roglic falter.