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Save me Vuelba!

We are in pre-Vuelta week and it's getting clear who is riding the last GT of the year. As usual it it's a godawful mix of very serious contenders, riders on training camp for the World Championships and a bunch of poor sods sent on penalty duty because their teams simply had to send someone and after two GTs the list of available legs is getting short. So lets look at the teams and their objectives.

The guys with a plan:

These guys are crazy. They actually thought things through and set their top man to aim for double GT wins instead of having him flop around in France for vanity's sake (that comes next year). Nibali is coming fully prepared and with the best helpers Astana can muster and that is a pretty impressive lineup. The target is double though, Nibali surely has his eyes on Worlds at home with the list of other potential Italian captains being uncharacteristically short.

While Astana are using their limited resources cleverly Sky are spoilt for choice. Out of the big barrel of GC contenders they're sending their Colombian duo of Henao and Uran Uran Uran etc. . Henao is perhaps the most exciting prospect but he does seem to lack the stability that Uran has. They've both had this Vuelta in their plan from day one so they should get there in perfect shape. Sky may not have the happiest memories from the Vuelta but that might change this year. If anything their problem might be support? With Sky having gone all in for both Giro and Tour they may have to rely on themselves. The support-cast looks good on paper but how fresh are they?

A tiny climber and a Colombian sounds like just the ticket for this looney Vuelta course. Well it's a nice plan on paper but Pozzovivo never seems to do as well as one would think even when the course suits him and Betancur is surely eyeing a World Championship title? Still, it looks a solid enough plan for a small-ish team.

The guys with a plan (but is it a good one?)

How much mileage can they get out of Rafal Majka realistically? As well as he did in the Giro, he will be up against a pack of wolves here. In the second GT of the year for a young kid. And Nico Roche and CA Sørensen won't scare anyone either unless it's someone who really had their heart set on the 8th place on GC.

Belkin is sending Mollema but I'm assuming that is a way of getting him geared up to captain the Netherlands in Florence?Comedy moment of the Vuelta should be if Belkin actually let LL Sanchez start and then spend the entire race praying he does nothing at all to draw attention to himself. Tricky business this new cycling.

Betting all their money on Basso not being ready to be put out to pasture yet. Best plan since someone said "I'm giving all my money to that Madoff fellow, he seems to know his stuff."

Swan song for Euskaltel as we know it? Will these guys be auditioning for 2014 jobs. Sammy's going and he'll probably get a more than able supporting cast, problem is that he hasn't really looked much more convincing than Basso as a GC threat lately so maybe they will actually look to someone else to get the results? Either way I can't see this team go out with a whimper.

Tour Do-over! Do-over!

We are Katusha. We have lots of weapons. They are all called J-Rod. Rodriguez was quite clear that his main goal was the Tour and he is adamant that he is a favorite for Worlds. Is he really supposed to win the Vuelta in between there too?

He may be balding ,he may have been aimed at the Tour more than anything else but Movistar will always fall back on trusty old Alejandro to make the Vuelta worthwhile for them. And he usually does.

Kiserlovski, Zubeldia get to try again and Horner, the man who is older than his own shadow, has another go at a GT . Beware though, Spain is the wrong country to go hunting for early-bird specials.

Is there any way for a french team to salvage a failed Tour de France in Spain? Probably not but they are giving it a go anyway. Thibaut Pinot will try and do what the dastardly downhills (and a shocking lack of peak form) stopped him from doing in July. Chances of success? Let's not go there.

"It's a good thing we have Moncoutie. He always saves our ass here."

The guys who have a great plan. For Florence.

I think these guys even wrote "Spanish trainingcamp" in their pressrelease?

Omega Pharma
If Tony Martin is going to be aiming at GTs next years he should start practicing but I'm guessing the Florence TT is more on his radar.

Another Grand Tour? We did not see that coming.

What's spanish for "trainingride for promising kids"?

Scarponi and Ulissi look great on paper. Any motivation beyond gaining spots on the azzurri team for home Worlds?

No party like a dead-team Vuelta party. What a hoot three weeks on this team-bus has to be?

Classic "Is it 2014 yet"-team here. Gerrans will be serious about Florence of course but the rest has a distinct smell of scraped-together leftovers. Represent and get some miles in for next season. Try not to start thinking of the barby just yet.

Hey, look! Jelle Vanendert is still alive! Team motto: "Eeeeh, do something. Go!"

Garmin have a great Vuelta team. In Colorado.