The season’s final Grand Tour rolls out on Saturday (August 22), with a stellar cast tempted by a demanding route for the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.
While 2014 champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) sits it out, having completed the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, the race for the red jersey is still set to be a fierce contest, with a host of big names dusting themselves down after the Tour.
Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) and former Vuelta champions Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will all take to the start line, alongside Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Giro d’Italia podium finishers Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa (both Astana).
Home favourite Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) also races, as does rising star Rafal Majka – who will target a good GC placing as leader of Tinkoff-Saxo in place of team-mate Contador. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) also has a point to prove after illness curtailed his Tour de France just as he looked a good bet for a first Grand Tour podium place.
And there will also be plenty of competition across the rest of the race, with Valverde once again among the contenders for the green points jersey, having won the classification in 2012 and 2013, and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) out to defend the honours he won last year. Four-time back-to-back Tour de France points classification winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) is also sure to be in the running.
So who can we expect to see celebrating on the Madrid podium come Sunday September 13? We’ve taken a closer look at the race for the red and green jerseys, and the King of the Mountains contenders, over the following pages.