Joaquim Rodriquez probably deserves to be favourite for the Vuelta a Espana, which promises to be much more interesting than this year’s Tour de France and Giro d’Italia editions.
Bookmakers have installed Nibali at the top of their Vuelta a Espana betting markets, with the 2010 winner and reigning Giro d’Italia champion trading at 3.25 on PaddyPower. But Nibali has made several strange comments in the lead up to the 21-stage race, with his most bizarre one being that he will start the event at 75 per cent and hope to finish it at 100%. Obviously, Nibali has one eye on next month’s world titles – many cyclists do – but surely the Italian has seen the Vuelta a Espana map and understands that it is one of the most testing Grand Tours in recent years, with the testing inclines appearing as early as the second day.
It takes a very special effort to win two of the three Grand Tours in the same year. Just nine cyclists have achieved the superb feat – Jacques Anquetil, Giovanni Battaglin, Alberto Contador, Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain, Eddy Merckx, Marco Pantani and Stephen Roche – with only Battaglin (1981), Contador (2008) and Merckx (1973) doing the Giro d’Italia-Vuelta a Espana double. Nibali will have to produce an effort worthy of greatness to join them, which seems much less likely to happen than bookmakers think judging by his comments regarding his physical shape.
Vuelta a Espana second favourite Rodriguez, who is available at 4.00 with Ladbrokes to win his maiden Grand Tour, is the cyclist most likely to profit from Nibali not being fully wound up, biting off more than he chew in the same year or both. Rodriguez did not take part in the Giro d’Italia but he snuck on to the Tour de France podium thanks to his form in the mountains, finishing ahead of everyone else who is doubling up. Tour de France winner Chris Froome and shock runner-up Nairo Quintana are among a number of high-profile Vuelta a Espana absentees, with Alberto Contador deciding not to defend his crown. Rodriguez defeated Vuelta a Espana fancy Alejandro Valverde fair and square in the Tour de France – more than 10 minutes separated the cyclists – so he is the pick in the market that attracts the most attention.
Bookmakers have framed some great Vuelta a Espana exotics, with the ones pertaining to the average speed of the winner and the time gap between the winner and the last classified rider making the most appeal from a punting perspective.
The average speed of the winner line has been set at 39.5 kilometres per hour, with punters able to back either over or under that velocity at BetVictor’s price 1.85. Contador won the 2012 Vuelta a Espana in an average speed of 39.63kph but each of the four previous editions went under the 39.5kph mark and a couple of them by quite some margin. The value lies in supporting the under, particularly as the 2013 Vuelta a Espana course has an amazing 11 summit finishes.
The time gap between the winner and the last classified rider line differs from bookmaker to bookmaker but it is around the five-hour mark. Betting on the time gap being less than four hours and 50 minutes at odds of around 1.80 really is an outstanding bet. Bookmakers have read the news about the Vuelta a Espana course being arduous and made the wrong call. If anything, the difficulty of the course is going to limit the time gap between first and last because it has scared off several famous poor climbers. Remember, also, that retirees do not count so, if someone is hours behind the leader and they pull out, they come out of calculations for the last classified rider.
Only once since 1955 has the last classified rider in a Vuelta a Espana finished more than four hours and 50 minutes behind the winner. That was in 2011. In recent years the time gap has been around the four-hour mark. Clearly the historical statistics suggest that going under the line is one of those tremendously exotic bets that pop up from time to time. The true odds ought to be around the 1.10 mark.