Given that the 74th edition of the Vuelta a Espana, which starts on Saturday, is looking like one of the most wide-open races for years, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of the Mr Green velkomstbonus and predict who will be wearing the red jersey once the race concludes on September 15.
Among them, four Danes will be in contention as the final Grand Tour event of 2019 starts with a time trial in Salinas de Torrevieja.
Jakob Fuglsang will be looking to wipe away the agonising disappointment of crashing out of the Tour de France last month, as he joins hungry youngsters Niklas Eg (Trek–Segafredo), Jesper Hansen (Cofidis) and Casper Pedersen (Sunweb) in the starting blocks.
But if you’re banking on Fuglsang – who just extended his contract with Astana this week – to pedal for title aspirations as he did in France, you might be (saddle) sorely mistaken.
The Astana rider does indeed look to have recovered from his Tour de France crashes, but the Dane’s first Vuelta participation since 2013 is set to be in a more supportive role to captain and team classification hopeful Miguel Angel Lopez.
All this is reflected in the odds given for a Fuglsang triumph. His captain Lopez is among the favourites along with Primoz Roglic and Richard Carapaz, but Fuglsang sits down the ladder at 25/1.
But anything can happen in cycling, as the mesmerisingly dramatic Tour de France proved this year, and Fuglsang could be one unlucky side-wind, a slip on a slick road or a nasty saddle-sore away from being thrust forward as Astana’s main man.
Up against history
From a historical perspective, it is true that a total of 12 Danes have won at least one stage over the years, with Magnus Cort being the latest thanks to two stage wins in 2016. But a Danish rider has yet to win the Vuelta outright.
Kim Andersen became the first Dane to win a stage in 1981, while Jesper Skibby leads the way with three stage wins since then. But no Dane has made a podium finish in the overall classification – the best overall Danish result in the race came in 1981, when Jørgen Rasmussen finished fourth.
While it looks highly unlikely that this streak will be ended this year, one thing does look certain. The recent British dominance of the race – Chris Froome and Simon Yates won the last two editions – looks poised to come to an end.