Compared to other grand tours, the Vuelta arguably provides the least excitement when it comes to the ‘other’ jersey competitions. As it’s tailored toward rewarding climbers more than sprinters (in both parcours and points awarded) it’s often the case that the riders high up in the G.C. contest are also wearing the coloured jerseys.
Like the Tour and the Giro, there is a points and king of the mountains jersey, but there is no award for the best young rider. Instead, the Vuelta organisers use the white jersey to denote the best ‘combined’ rider – awarded to the rider who has the lowest cumulative value when their positions in the other three jersey competitions are added together. This ensures that if they are winning a couple of the other jerseys by a decent margin, then they get a bonus third or fourth jersey to boot. It’s enough to furnish a wardrobe.
The Vuelta is traditionally used by riders to get into tip top shape for the World Championships, but as this year’s worlds is in the pan-flat money-lined streets of Qatar there seems little point for sprinters to be struggling up the hills in Spain for preparation. This is reflected in the utter lack of sprinters in all of the team’s line ups – Nicolas Ardnt (Giant Alpecin) is perhaps the most talented fast man starting, but he’s unlikely to come close to the top of the points leaderboard. Summit finishes are awarded the same points as flat finishes, so it’s much harder for a sprinter to win this jersey (though Cavendish, Degenkolb, Greipel and Hushovd have all done so in the past). It’s much more likely a strong, consistent climber like Alejandro Valverde can win this.
King of the Mountains:
Out of the three jerseys on offer, the KOM jersey will provide the most competitive racing. In the starting line up we have two previous winners – Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) and Luis Léon Sánchez (Astana) – who both start in teams without a clear G.C. man. Hopefully this will mean they’ll be allowed to run riot in the breakaways to scoop up the points on offer on each climb. The very tough nature of the race this year will probably see bigger breakaways forming on each stage, as the G.C. teams try to not expend too much energy, so really this could go to a number of riders and be quite bitterly fought. There are so many climbers and breakaway candidates in the starting line up that it would be pointless to list them all here, but expect this competition to include some big names. If Esteban Chaves isn’t quite up to scratch on the G.C., then this would be an excellent target for the Orica man.
This is invariably won by the overall G.C. winner, and, if not, it’s won by the 2nd or 3rd placed G.C. rider. That makes this competition pretty dull, and it perhaps doesn’t warrant the same attention the other competitions do. Let’s say our prediction is that it’ll be won by the overall leader, and leave it at that.