Copyright: Alchetron

The King of the Mountains in the Vuelta is old school. None of this double points on final climbs or heavily weighted points on difficult climbs – it’s all about consistency. It means that GC riders will not win the jersey as there’s usually so many points up for grabs in the stage. Regardless of how many mountain top finishes there are, a few will go to the breaks, so that’s why the GC riders find it hard to win. The last time a GC rider won the jersey was back in 2007. That won’t change this year.
Let’s look at the points system.

Highest Climb of the race: 20, 15, 10, 6, 4 2

HC: 15, 10, 6, 4, 2
Cat 1: 10, 6, 4, 2, 1
Cat 2: 5, 3, 1
Cat 3: 3, 2, 1

Let’s look at the key stages – the maximum points on offer.

Stage 3: 10, 10, 5 = (25) descend to the finish (break day)
Stage 4: 3 (rest up)
Stage 5: 5-3-5-5-3 = (21) Go in the break this day
Stage 6: 3-3-3-3-5 = (17) Go break again
Stage 7: 3-3-3 = (9) Rest Up
Stage 8: 3-3-10 = (16) Go break again (Cat 1 climb at finish followed by small descent)
Stage 9: 5-10 = (15) Rest up. Finishing climb at the end
Rest Day
Stage 10: 5-10 = (15) Go in break
Stage 11: 10-10 = (20) finish on the climb. GC day. Rest
Stage 12: 10-5 = (15) Go in break
Stage 13: 3 = (3) Rest up
Stage 14: 3-5-15 = (23) Finish on the climb. Rest up
Stage 15: 10-10-20 = (40) After 2 restful days, go in break to basically seal it
Rest Day
Stage 16: Time Trial
Stage 17: 5-10-15 = (30) go in break
Stage 18: 3-3-5-3 = (14) rest
Stage 19: 10-3-3-3 = (19) defend by going in break
Stage 20: 10-10-15 = (35) defend
Stage 21: Flat stage

As you can see, if you go in the break on stage 3, 5 and 6 you can build a handy lead. This is what Omar Fraile did 2 years ago. Rest up and go again. Then on stages 10-12 you can seal it by going in the break 1 day or 2. Well not seal it, but extend the lead. If you have a 20 point lead heading into stage 17, you won’t be losing the jersey unless you are fatigued.

So let’s look at the teams and rule some riders out.

Trek: It’s all for Contador.
Sky: It’s all for Froome
Orica: It’s all for Chaves and Adam Yates
Bora: It’s all for Majka
Katusha: It’s all for Zakarin
Lotto NL: It’s all for Kruijswijk
Bahrain: It’s all for Nibali

I’m confident that the winner of the jersey won’t come from those teams, so that narrows the field down quite a bit. Still a lot to go.

Let’s look at the rosters in more depth of the other teams.

The betting odds are in brackets. Win is the first figure. Place (top 3 is the second figure)
Courtesy of Unibet

Quick Step: Bob Jungels ($251/$67) & Julien Alaphilippe ($34/$10).

Jungels can win this jersey if he goes for it. Will he test himself for the GC instead? It looks like he will test himself and help out De La Cruz. Alaphilippe, however, he will hunt stages but don’t think he’ll get the jersey.

BMC: Alessandro De Marchi ($101/$21), Rohan Dennis, ($301/$81) Nicolas Roche ($81/$21)

The latter is already in the jersey so may want to keep it. De Marchi is suited to these climbs. Dennis wants to target stage wins later in the race – wants to test himself in the third week. So will he go in the breaks early on? I doubt it. Rule him out.

Movistar: Carlos Betancur ($67/$16), Ruben Fernandez ($101/$26), Daniel Moreno ($101/$26)

These 3 riders are most likely to target it. I can see Fernandez try and go for a good GC placing. Betancur has shown more this year than he has other years. Moreno probably won’t for it.

Team Sunweb: Warren Barguil ($9/$3)

Barguil won the jersey at the Tour. He could easily go for it here and if in form, will probably be hard to beat.

Ag2r: Romain Bardet ($15/$4.75), Axel Domont ($201/$51), Alexandre Geniez ($26/$6), Domenico Pozzovivo ($41/$10)

Domont should be in a lot of breaks – good chance to pick up points. Likewise Geniez. I think these two are the most likely from this team as the other two will probably ride with the GC guys.

Cannondale: Michael Woods ($101/$26), Simon Clarke ($151/$41), Joe Dombrowski ($101/$26)

This was a target at the Tour de France – they didn’t have the team to pull it off. Clarke is a previous winner of this jersey. Woods is a solid climber as is Dombrowski.

UAE: Darwin Atapuma ($13/$4.25), Louis Meintjes ($201/$51), Przemyslaw Niemiec ($201/$51)

Atapuma is the most likely rider from this team to target and win the jersey.

Astana: Luis Leon Sanchez ($29/$9), Pello Bilbao ($101/$26), Miguel Angel Lopez ($29/$8)

Sanchez won this jersey 3 years ago. He’ll be attacking a lot. Lopez will be riding for a high GC place.

Lotto Soudal: Thomas De Gendt ($18/$5), Maxime Monfort ($201/$51)

De Gendt is aiming to be the 100th person to win stages in all 3 grand tours. Will he be focusing on stage wins more so than the jersey? Monfort is going for stage wins too. Both riders are guaranteed to pick up points but will they go for it?

FDJ: Can’t see anybody from this team winning

Manzana Postobon: Likewise this team

Dimension Data: Igor Anton ($67/$13), Omar Fraile ($3.50/$1.85), Merhawi Kudus ($101/$26), Serge Pauwels ($81/$21),

Fraile is going for 3 in a row but he also wants a stage win. It could open the door for someone else in this team to go for the jersey. These 4 are strong riders who can potentially win the jersey.

Cofidis: Daniel Navarro ($34/$9)

Not sure what his intentions are here. Already 2:39 behind.

Aqua Blue: Stefan Denifil ($34/$9), Larry Warbasse ($51/$10)

Denifl went for it at the Giro a few years back. Being a wild card team, this team will definitely try and wear the jersey. Warbasse gave them their first pro win a few months back. Both are solid climbers. I think Warbasse is the most likely from this team though.

Caja Rural: Sergio Pardilla ($41/$11), David Arroyo ($201/$51), Fabricio Ferrari (No Odds), Lluis Mas Bonet ($101/$26), Jaime Roson ($34/$9)

Roson and Pardilla are close on GC, so I can see Roson being the GC man. They said pre-race they hope Bonet can replicate 2014. That year he held the jersey for 10 days. Arroyo is a good climber and is far down already. Is he out of form or not? If in form, he would be a good chance for this jersey. Sadly, there’s no odds for him yet. Ferrari is a good climber.

This team targeted the jersey a few years ago with stage wins. They might try and get it again.

I’m going to be bold and say that one of the riders mentioned in this preview will take it, but who?

These are my bets at this stage. I wanted to limit it to 8, but instead backed 9 as I think Fraile will make it 3 in a row. But in case he doesn’t, I have backed 8 riders at longer odds who could take the jersey.

I’ll be back at the first rest day to analyse where things stand.

Arroyo $201/$51
Mas Bonet $101/$26
Pauwels $81/$21
De Marchi ($101/$21)
Roche $81/$21
Sanchez: $29/$9
Monfort: $201/$51
Warbasse: $51/$10
Fraile: $3.50

Predictions

1st: Fraile
2nd: Sanchez
3rd: Monfort
4th: Arroyo
5th: Warbasse