The Vuelta a Espana starts on Friday with three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic in the spotlight. Here we take a look at the main contenders for the overall title:

Primoz Roglic – Jumbo-Visma/Slovenia (age 32)

The former ski-jumper, who suffered an agonising penultimate-stage defeat on the 2020 Tour de France, can make Vuelta history by winning a fourth straight title. He could take a lead from the day 1 team time-trial, but faces being ganged up on in the Sierra Madre in the final week. Coming back off an injury lay-off but is physically the strongest rider on the roster. Joked during the Tour de France saying: “I’m getting ready for the Vuelta”

Remco Evenepoel – Quick-Step/Belgium (22)

Quick-Step are finally unleashing the 22-year-old while also talking down his chances. Touted in Belgium as the ‘new Eddy Merckx’ before he plunged into a ravine in Italy in 2020 breaking a hip. Evenepoel has won 11 races this season, is a brilliant one-day racer and one of the best time-trial riders. In Spain, he will have world champion Julian Alaphilippe to guide his every move. “He’s done everything to be ready for this,” Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere said of his prodigy this week.

Richard Carapaz – Ineos/Ecuador (29)

One bad day cost Carapaz the Giro d’Italia in May but the cool Ecuadorian climber can count on deep mental reserves and high-level tactical nous. Could be his last ride for Ineos as sole leader and he will enjoy back up from Dutch powerhouse Dylan van Baarle, and climbers Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart. Carapaz got ahead of Roglic to win his only grand tour on the Giro in 2019, but has been on the podium at the Tour and the Vuelta too. The team time-trial and long second week individual time-trial should also help his overall quest.

Simon Yates – Bike Exchange/England (30)

The 2018 Vuelta champion is one of a clutch of riders who have the credentials to pull off a triumph and will almost certainly be in the mix on the major mountain stages. Could be disadvantaged by the opening day team time-trial but Yates has the ability to punish rivals on the steepest of climbs. May concentrate on stage wins should he fare poorly in the time-trials.

Jai Hindley – Bora/Australia (26)

This mountainous Vuelta should suit his patient style of waiting for the big moment to strike. “We’ll let the road decide,” he said this week. Took his foot off the gas since his Giro triumph in May so may need to nurse his losses in the first week in the Basque Country hills and Asturias mountains and bank on coming into form in the Sierra Madre. The ambitious 26-year-old has stepped up a level with the support of the German team since his move to Bora, who plan to unleash him on the Tour de France next season.

RBA/AFP Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency

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