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65th Vuelta a España - Favourites Preview
By Chris Graetz
Date: 8/22/2010
65th Vuelta a España - Favourites Preview

65th Vuelta a España – Favourites Preview
The last Grand Tour of 2010 is nearly upon us. Who will win the 65th Vuelta?

In 2010, the Vuelta a España is celebrating it's 75th anniversary. On Saturday, the 65th edition will take place. This year, the field is wide open with at least half a dozen riders capable of taking victory.

Who are the favourites for the 65th Vuelta? In writing this preview, I looked at the betting odds from Australian bookmaker, Sportingbet. Sportingbet will have a wide range of markets during the three week race.

Denis Menchov
Country: Russia
Team: Rabobank
Age: 32
Best Finishing Position: Winner (2005 & 2007)
Current Odds: $4 Sportingbet Australia

Two time Vuelta champion Denis Menchov deserves to be one of the favourites. The experienced Russian enjoyed an excellent Tour de France in July finishing third overall. He based his season around the Tour and even though he didn't win, he rode a brilliant race. Fast forward five weeks and he's looking to peak again.

This year's edition has some brutal climbing and it could be hard to bounce back from the Tour. However, Menchov has been around the mark in every race he participated in this season. He finished second overall in the Tour of Romandie and also in the Vuelta a Murcia. He can time trial and that will prove pivotal in the 46km race against the clock in the third week which could decide the winner. In the mountains, his lieutenant will be Spanish climber Juan Manuel Garate.

Denis Menchov after a strong time trial in the Tour de France on Stage 19 which ensured he finished on the podium. Photo © 2010 Fotoreporter Sirotti 

Frank Schleck
Country: Luxembourg
Team: Saxo Bank
Age: 30
Best Finishing Position: N/A
Current Odds: $4 Sportingbet Australia

Frank Schleck suffered a broken collarbone early on in the Tour de France. That injury could be a blessing in disguise as he's one of the freshest men heading into the race. Frank has ridden the Vuelta once and that was last year where he withdrew to concentrate on the World's in Mendrisio. This year, he will look to not only finish it, but win it.

Schleck's season has been solid. He won the Tour de Suisse and claimed victory on stage three. He also finished second overall in his home tour winning stage two. He's also the road race champion of Luxembourg. In regards to his Grand Tour performances, he has finished fifth overall in the Tour twice and his fifth place last year was supporting younger brother, Andy.

Andy himself will be riding. After a hard Tour, he will support his brother. This combination could prove lethal and having Andy with him in the mountains, could be the extra incentive Frank needs to claim his first Grand Tour.

Frank Schleck at the end of the Tour de Suisse celebrating his victory.Photo © 2010 Fotoreporter Sirotti 

Vincenzo Nibali
Country: Italy
Team: Liquigas
Age: 25
Best Finishing Position: N/A
Current Odds: $7 Sportingbet Australia

Nibali has enjoyed a fantastic season. He was originally focusing his attention on the Vuelta but the late withdrawal of Franco Pellizotti from the Giro meant he was the replacement. Nibali's performance in the Giro was phenomenal helping team-mate Ivan Basso take overall victory. Nibali claimed a stage and also finished third overall.

The Italian has also claimed victory in the Tour of Slovenia and Tour de San Luis this season. With the Giro back in May, he's fresh to peak again and challenge for overall victory. A solid climber, the steep climbs Spain has to offer could be a good ally for him.

Ezequiel Mosquera
Country: Spain
Team: Xacobeo-Galicia
Age: 34
Best Finishing Position: 4th (2008)
Current Odds: $9 Sportingbet Australia

Mosquera has enjoyed great success in the Vuelta in previous seasons. He's finished fifth twice and fourth once. He's yet to finish on the podium in his home Grand Tour, but that could change this year.

He hasn't won a race in 2010 but has been consistent. He rode brilliantly without success finishing second in the Vuelta a Burgos, Third in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and fourth in the Vuelta a Asturias. With the race being wide open and a host of riders undertaking a hard Tour de France, this could be his year to stamp his authority on the race.

 Mosquera, wrapped in bandages after several crashes in last year's Vuelta held on to his 5th place on the G.C. and led his team to the top of the Team Classification on stage twenty.Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Igor Anton
Country: Spain
Team: Euskaltel-Euskadi
Age: 27
Best Finishing Position: 8th (2007)
Current Odds: $11 Sportingbet Australia

Like Mosquera, Anton hasn't ridden a Grand Tour this season. He's enjoyed a great year finishing second overall in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon where he won stage three, beating Alberto Contador on a tough uphill finish.

Anton turned professional in 2005 and in 2006 won stage sixteen of the Vuelta. The following year, he was in brilliant form staying with Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde in the 2008 Vuelta. Unfortunately he crashed and suffered a broken collarbone which brought his season to an end.

He's shown over his career he can match it with the best in the mountains and if he has that form we know he is capable of, he will be a hard man to beat.

Carlos Sastre
Country: Spain
Team: Cervelo Test Team
Age: 35
Best Finishing Position: 2nd (2005 & 2007)
Current Odds: $13 Sportingbet Australia

2008 Tour de France champion, Carlos Sastre will be lining up for his third Grand Tour of the season. He's finished on the podium three times in his career in the Vuelta and will look to go one better and win in 2010.

Sastre could find it a bit tough as it's hard to perform at your peak for three Grand Tours. He finished eighth in the Giro and twentieth in the Tour and could very well struggle over the coming weeks. However, one thing about Sastre is he never gives up. He will fight to the death and cannot be dismissed.

Joaquim Rodríguez
Country: Spain
Team: Katusha
Age: 31
Best Finishing Position: 6th (2008)
Current Odds: $19 Sportingbet Australia

Rodríguez is currently enjoying the best season of his career. He finished eighth overall in his first Tour de France and proved he was one of the best climbers in the race. Over the past few seasons, he's also shown that he can match it with Contador in the mountains.

Joaquim Rodriguez claiming victory on Stage 12 of the Tour de France.
Photo © 2010 Fotoreporter Sirotti 

A former king of the mountains winner at the Vuelta, Rodríguez will be lining up to target the overall classification this year. He's finished top ten twice but after a hard Tour de France, could struggle to find the form to win. Katusha have a very strong team with the likes of Vladimir Karpets to support him. If Rodríguez struggles, Karpets could take over team leadership and deliver a strong result.

However, Rodríguez won't go down without a fight. The climbs this year do suit him and if he can back up from July's performance, he'll be a tough man to beat.

David Arroyo
Country: Spain
Team: Caisse d'Epargne
Age: 30
Best Finishing Position: 19th (2006)
Current Odds: $51 Sportingbet Australia

Arroyo will most likely be Caisse d'Epargne's leader. The Spaniard has enjoyed a terrific season finishing second overall in the Giro d'Italia and holding the Maglia Rosa for five stages.

Over the past few seasons, he's shown that he can handle a three week race and that was proven finishing tenth in the Giro last year. He won stage nineteen in the 2008 Vuelta and that was the biggest win of his career.

Caisse d'Epargne have a strong team to support him such as Luis Leon Sanchez, Marzio Bruseghin and Rigoberto Uran. If Arroyo rides like he did in May, a win is not beyond him.

Tom Danielson & Christian Vande Velde will lead the Garmin Transitions squad. Vande Velde recently crashed out of the Tour de France and will be looking to make amends.

Other chances include: Xavier Tondo (Cervelo Test Team), Thomas Lovkvist (Sky), Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia), David Moncoutie & Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Nicolas Roche (Ag2r), Egoi Martinez & Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Andalucia - Cajasur), and Andrey Kashechkin (Lampre), who is riding his first Grand Tour after serving a two year suspension for blood doping.

I am going to be game enough to make a prediction after my Tour de France performance. See here: Tour de France Preview

Due to the steepness of some of the climbs, I can't look past Joaquim Rodriguez. It's usually hard to go well in consecutive Grand Tours, but if he recovers well enough and has the July form, he should be too strong on the climbs.

After careful consideration, here is my top ten. We would love to hear your predictions on our facebook page; Daily Peloton Pro International Cycling News

Chris Graetz's Top 10 Predictions
1. Joaquim Rodriguez
2. Igor Anton
3. Denis Menchov
4. Ezequiel Mosquera
5. Vincenzo Nibali
6. Frank Schleck
7. David Arroyo
8. Andy Schleck
9. Juan Manuel Garate
10. Pierre Rolland

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