The Vuelta Goes Full Giro
You know how in the Giro, the winner of the points competition tends to be a climby guy cause there's not enough sprinter-friendly stages to allow the fast men enough points? Well this year, the Vuelta is doing the same with only 3-6 stages that a sprinter could hope to score the points on offer (depending on what preview article you read). This and the fact that the Worlds RR is not sprinter friendly this year has led to sprinters taking a slightly different end-of-the-year route than is normal for them.
It didn't used to be that way. Traditionally the Vuelta has a sprinter friendly though skewed take on the points competition. Sprinter friendly in the sense that if a sprinter was on his game and raced the whole race, he'd stand a good chance in winning the Green jersey. In 2010 Mark Cavendish won it, 2009 Andre Greipel, 2008 Greg Van Avermaet, 2007 Daniele Bennati, 2006 Thor Hushovd, etc. Sprinters didn't always win and that's where the twist comes into play, the twist that is the Worlds RR.
It should not be controversial to suggest that winning the Worlds RR is more prestigeous than winning the Vuelta points competition, right? Good. So the course that many of the A-list sprinters normally would take is to race a couple weeks of the Vuelta, hopefully racking up a win or two in the process, and thus get a great tune-up for the Worlds happening a week or so after the Vuelta ends. Oscar Friere loved to do this. So sometimes the points winner would be a sprinter who stayed to the end or perhaps a climby guy like the GC winner since he probably won a couple stages himself.
Last year was different. 2011: "the toughest Vuelta ever". The winner last year was 4th place GC guy Bauke Molema with 19th place GC guy Joaquim "Bender" Rodriguez 2nd and a sprinter! Daniele Bennati 3rd.
Now we got this year which looks at 2011's claim of toughness and does, well, this. And for the sprinters? They got a just-a-little-bit-too-climby Worlds RR to further disincentiveize them. Poor things. Hey! They always have Vattenfalls! And Denmark! And the traditional World Ports Classic! And Paris-Brussels! And Paris-Tours! Milan-Turin! No, seriously, you want to see the A-list sprinters? Go to those races I just listed. Cav, Greips, The Fasvakian, etc. will be there.
But while we are talking sprinters, are there any at the Vuelta? Yeah, sure. Jump to find out who.
Nacer Bouhanni, John Degenkolb, Ben Swift, Matti Breschel, Allan Davis, Gert Steegmans, Elia Viviani, Manuel Cardoso, and JJ Rojas.
(I felt like writing their names in a big font cause I want to show that I appreciate their efforts and I hope they all get to be fast friends in the autobus.)
I probably missed a couple sprinters but, meh.
Otherwise look for the winner of the green jersey to be a climby guy who has a good finish. See you tomorrow!