Only weeks after Rigoberto Urán claimed a well-deserved second place in the Tour de France, La Vuelta a España is coming up. Another opportunity for Colombian cyclists on the podium?
Last year Colombian cyclists took both first and third at La Vuelta a España, and an extraordinary run of podium spots keeps on rolling. Although Nairo Quintana failed to live up to expectations in May’s Giro d’Italia, he still took second place, as did Rigoberto Urán in the Tour de France a month ago. Urán’s second place was Colombia’s 11th Grand Tour podium in the past half decade, proving definitively that this is not just Colombia’s golden generation, but possibly one of the best throughout cycling.
The man most likely to continue the winning streak is Esteban Chaves from Ciudad Bolívar. The rolo is rarely seen without a smile, but even he must have grimaced when he saw the competition for this year’s Vuelta. Tour champion and last year’s runner-up Chris Froome from the UK is at the head of a strong group which includes multiple grand tour winner, Spaniard Alberto Contador. Chaves suffered a knee injury earlier in the year and hasn’t got many miles in his legs. It’s hard to say whether that’ll help or hinder his chances. He was poor in the Tour, but that was always a warm up for this Vuelta. He’s also part of a trident, with British brothers Adam and Simon Yates sharing leadership responsibilities with him for the Aussie Orica-Scott team.
Although Chaves might not be smiling the whole way through, Colombia may have other reasons to celebrate. Darwin Atapuma put in some big breaks in the Tour and was only beaten to a stage by an inspired Warren Barguil of France. If he’s got some gas left in the tank he could be a threat for a stage win in the mountains.
Also keep an eye out for Winner Anacona, another Colombian, who’s unlikely to be heavily marked and could end up in a break or two. Movistar also have Carlos Betancur to play with – since he gave up the empanadas and concentrated on training, he’s getting back to his best. With no Nairo-responsibilities, both Anacona and Betancur are real wildcards. Finally, Colombia have a whole team representing Manzana Postobon. These pink-clad dynamos are largely unknown but will be looking to stake a claim for future guest spots on the European calendar.