Vuelta a Espana 2014: red jersey contenders

Nairo Quitnana, Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez among riders to go head-to-head for red in Spain

So often the nearly man, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has finished in the top ten at the Vuelta in five of the last six editions – including fourth last year.

World number one for the last two years – and three of the last four – Purito was a major contender for the Giro d’Italia before he crashed out on stage six.

Last year’s world number one Joaquim Rodriguez celebrates at the Volta a Catalunya, and will hope to be back to his best form at the Vuelta (Pic: Tim de Waele/Katusha)

Having used the Tour de France to come back from his injury – finishing third in the King of the Mountains classification in the process – Rodriguez will now bid to finally end his long wait for a Grand Tour victory.

Rodriguez showed in flashes at the Tour – his first race back after injury – that he was well on the road to recovery, particularly when he finished ninth on La Planche des Belles Filles.

He has since finished third at the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian, and with several mountain-top finishes perfectly suited to his style of kicking late on steep climbs, a return to top form will certainly see him among the contenders.

The last time Rodriguez raced alongside all three of Froome, Quintana and Contador – at the Tour of Catalunya – he came out on top, winning in La Molina and holding the leader’s jersey from then on.

Of course, the Vuelta a Espana is a different race altogether and Rodriguez’s weaker time trialing may count against him, but cut his losses against the clock and he is likely to be in the reckoning for the red jersey.

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