An elite cast has been confirmed for the 2014 Vuelta a Espana, with the battle for the red jersey set to be as intense – if not more so – than Chris Horner and Vincenzo Nibali’s epic battle 12 months ago.
American veteran Horner, 42, will not defending his title after being forced to withdraw, but there will be competition for the red jersey from home favourites Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 2013 Tour de France victor Chris Froome (Team Sky), among others.
Race-ending crashes for Rodriguez and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) at the Giro d’Italia, and for Froome and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), have added to the importance of the season’s final Grand Tour, as all look to end their years’ on a high note.
Valverde and Quintana will lead a two-pronged Movistar attack as the Spanish-based squad bids to cement its position as the world number one team for the second consecutive year.
So who could be pulling on the red jersey when the Vuelta, which starts with a team time trial in Jerez on Saturday (August 23), reaches Santiago de Compostella after three weeks of racing?
Read our thoughts on the chief contenders and the riders looking to upset the odds over the following pages – and share your tips in the RoadCyclingUK forum.