Vuelta a España

Where: Spain and Andorra
When: August 22 – September 13, 2015
Rank: Grand Tour

Esteban Chaves held onto his race lead as Chris Froome saw his hopes of winning second Grand Tour dealt a blow after he was distanced by his GC rivals on the mountain finish of the Vuelta a España’s stage seven.

The Brit now sits outside the top-10 on GC, 1-22 down on Chaves and 25 seconds behind his main rivals as he found himself dropped by the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez on the category one finish.

Dutchman Bert-Jan Lindemans took the stage, the biggest of his career, after riding from the 12th kilometre in a five-man break, holding onto to beat Ilia Koshevoy to the line on the 191.1km stage.

The intial spotlight at this year’s Vuelta was first on an ill-advised opening team time trial, for which the route was so unpopular with riders that it was eventually removed from the general classification.

Then, on day two of the race, Astana team leader Vincenzo Nibali was disqualified for holding onto a team car. The only consolation for the Kazakh team is that it has two strong riders in Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa who can target the GC instead — but it completes a miserable year for the 2014 Tour de France champion.

This year’s Vuelta route appears to favour the climbers, but the inclusion of a relatively long, flat time trial could see riders such as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) losing time to the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky).

The Vuelta will also ride through Andorra in this year’s edition, with an extraordinarily hard stage 11 just after the rest day that takes in six categorised climbs; including an especial category climb and a first category summit finish.

Defending champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) will not return to try for another red jersey, having already ridden both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour in 2015. Fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will take the start in his home race, alongside teammate and Tour runner-up Quintana.

Tour champion Froome confirmed his place in the race and will be backed by a strong squad, while Aru and Landa will try to rescue a desperately poor season for Astana.

The 21 stages of the 2015 Vuelta take place between August 22 and September 13.

Key info: Route/stages | Start list | Where to watch: live television and highlights | Race preview

Key riders: Chris Froome | Nairo Quintana | Joaquim Rodriguez | Vincenzo Nibali | Alejandro Valverde | Tejay van Garderen