Vuelta a Espana: Simon Yates hopes to end 'curse' and challenge in Spain

By Jack SkeltonBBC Sport
Adam Yates and Simon Yates
Adam Yates (left) will ride in support of twin brother Simon Yates at the 2018 Vuelta

Britain's Simon Yates says he hopes he can end the "curse" of racing alongside twin brother Adam and challenge for the Vuelta a Espana title.

Simon is one of the favourites for overall victory and will lead Mitchelton-Scott at the Grand Tour in Spain, with Adam riding in support.

The Vuelta starts in Malaga on Saturday and finishes in Madrid on 16 September.

"I like to race with Adam but hope this is the first race we can do together at a very high level," said Simon Yates

"There has always been a curse - whenever we've raced together, one of us was not so good unfortunately, or unlucky.

"We hope to change our fortunes here."

Simon was leading the Giro d'Italia with only three days remaining in May but cracked on stage 19 as British Team Sky rider Chris Froome launched a remarkable long-distance attack to win the stage and go on to secure the title.

The 26-year-old said he was "completely dead" at the end of the Giro, where he also won three individual stages.

However, he added "the signs are good" for his form after finishing second and winning the final stage of the Tour of Poland earlier this month.

"I've had a very different build up to the Vuelta but I've always turned up to races trying to win," said Simon, who won a stage and finished sixth at the 2016 Vuelta.

Adam had a disappointing Tour de France in July, dropping out of overall contention in the second week following severe dehydration and missing out on stage 16 victory after crashing while leading.

He was not due to ride the Vuelta but it was added to his programme to give him experience of riding multiple Grand Tours in the same season.

"Adam is one of the best climbers in the world as far as I'm concerned. Having somebody of that level supporting you, not many teams can provide that for a rider. It's going to be good," said Simon.

Why are Froome and Thomas not riding?

Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and last year's Vuelta winner Froome have both opted to ride the Tour of Britain, which starts on 2 September.

Briton Thomas told BBC Radio 5 live's BeSpoke show he was originally down to do the Vuelta but was glad Team Sky coach Tim Kerrison removed it from his schedule straight after winning his first Tour title in July.

"Tim knows me well enough to know you've got to enjoy winning the biggest bike race in the world," said Thomas.

"I wasn't in the same country for more than two days in a row - and there were a few nights out as well."

Froome last missed the Vuelta in 2013 but this would have been his fifth Grand Tour in a row. He won the Tour-Vuelta double in 2017, then the Giro in May, before finishing third in this year's Tour.

The 33-year-old also said his priority is to target winning a record-equalling fifth Tour title next year.

Michal Kwiatkowski and David de la Cruz will lead Team Sky in Spain, but neither are considered strong favourites, meaning the British outfit may not be as dominant at the front of the race as in most recent Grand Tours.

A race of redemption for the main contenders?

Nairo Quintana
Can Colombian Nairo Quintana get his career back on track with a second Vuelta title?

This is one of the most open Grand Tours in recent years.

Simon Yates is on a long list of potential winners of the red jersey, with the Vuelta offering many riders - like the Briton - who have suffered disappointment this season a chance at redemption.

Four-time Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali finished second to Froome in 2017 and is returning having abandoned the Tour after fracturing a veterbra in his back in a crash on stage 12.

The Italian 33, is one of four former champions in the race, alongside compatriot Fabio Aru and Movistar duo Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.

Quintana's career has somewhat stalled since he followed 2016 Vuelta victory with second at the 2017 Giro. The 28-year-old Colombian finished 10th and 12th at the last two Tours and will surely want to prove he still has Grand Tour pedigree, while Valverde is unlikely to challenge at 38 but could be a disruptive force.

Aru, 28, had a miserable Giro, losing time throughout before abandoning on stage 19 but is hoping to rediscover the form that saw him win the 2015 Vuelta. Ireland's Dan Martin, who won a stage and finished eighth at the Tour, will provide back-up for UAE Team Emirates.

Australian Richie Porte, 33, immediately targeted the Vuelta and World Championship road race after yet another Grand Tour misfortune in crashing out of this year's Tour on stage nine. Illness meant he missed Thursday's team presentation but he is expected to start.

France's Thibaut Pinot is looking to make amends after the 28-year-old was on course for a podium spot at the Giro but quit after struggling through the penultimate stage and was in hospital with pneumonia.

Astana rider Miguel Angel Lopez took advantage of Pinot's plight to finish third in Italy and the 24-year-old Colombian will look to continue his impressive rise to prominence with at least another Grand Tour podium.

Other contenders include Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, Russian Ilnur Zakarin, who finished third last year, Poland's Rafal Majka, Dutch pair Wilco Kelderman and Steven Kruisjwijk and the latter's LottoNL-Jumbo team-mate George Bennett.

Any other Britons in the race?

Dimension Data's Steve Cummings missed out on selection for the Tour de France after a tough season in which he has lacked form and suffered from allergies. The 37-year-old will target stage wins and support team leader Louis Meintjes, an outside contender for the general classification.

Team Sky's Tao Geoghegan Hart is making his Grand Tour debut. The 23-year-old was part of the squad that claimed the team time trial at this year's Criterium du Dauphine, won overall by Thomas, and finished fifth in both the Tour of California and Vuelta a Burgos earlier this year.

The route

The 2018 Vuelta begins with an 8km prologue in Malaga before stage two sees the first of nine summit finishes, albeit featuring an easier final climb than the rest.

The next summit finish comes on stage four, but otherwise the first week should see plenty of chances for the sprinters - expect three-time world champion Peter Sagan, Quick-Step Floors' Elia Viviani and the Yates' team-mate Matteo Trentin to be the main contenders in bunch finishes.

Stage nine is a stern test before the first rest day, but most of the climbing is in the second week, including three tough stages in a row that all feature summit finishes, before the second rest day.

The race resumes with a decisive 32km individual time trial, then moves on to a punishing penultimate stage in Andorra - where the Yates twins live - that includes nearly 4,000m of climbing in just under 100km of racing.

Whoever comes through that brutal challenge in the lead can enjoy a processional run into Madrid on the final day.

Profile of stage 20 of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana, which shows how riders must climb almost 4,000m in just under 100km
Stage 20 is set to provide a brutal final challenge for riders hoping to secure overall victory


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