The Vuelta a Espana doesn't boast the same prestige of the Tour de France nor does it have the romance of the Giro d'Italia, but the third Grand Tour of the year is nonetheless one of the most coveted prizes in professional cycling.
Vuelta a Espana 2022
Netherlands and Spain
Friday 19th August - Sunday 11th September 2022
|How to watch|
GCN+, Discovery+ and Eurosport
|Odds||Primoz Roglic 15/8, Remco Evenepoel 5/1, Jai Hindley 13/2, Richard Carapaz 8/1, Joao Almeida 11/1|
The Vuelta's roll of honour reads like a who's who of the sport with Merckx, Hinault and Froome among those who can proudly claim to have won the red jersey, and there could be further history made in 2022.
Slovenia's Primoz Roglic has endured heartbreaking near-misses at both the Tour and Giro during his career, but the Vuelta has been far kinder to the former ski jumper, who is going for a fourth red jersey in succession this year.
However, the threats are great and numerous and Roglic, who can rely on the Tour de France-winning Jumbo-Visma team, likely has a battle on his hands if he is to become the first rider to win the race four times in a row and only the second person alongside Spainiard Roberto Heras to land a quartet of of victories.
Reigning champion Roglic was by far the best rider at last year's Vuelta, winning four of the 21 stages as he breezed to a third straight general classification success by a margin of almost five minutes from second-placed Enric Mas.
However, he didn't have to beat the calibre of rider lining up against him this year and there must also be a huge question mark over his fitness given he hasn't raced since exiting the Tour de France before the final week due to injury.
Most of his perceived threats missed the Tour after targeting May's Giro d'Italia so should have been able to reset and focus their efforts after their exertions in the season's first Grand Tour.
The last person to do the Giro-Vuelta double was Alberto Contador in 2008, highlighting the magnitude of the challenge facing Australia's Jai Hindley, who won a first Grand Tour in Italy earlier this year.
But Hindley cut a calm and assured figure during his Giro win, even when he was trailing Richard Carapaz in the general classification. The Australian delivered a devastating blow on stage 19, usurping Carapaz in the Maglia Rosa, and defended his lead with minimal fuss on the final two stages.
The 26-year-old finished seventh at last week's Vuelta a Burgos and has a capable team to chaperone him in the mountains.
Olympic road race champion Carapaz came within 24 seconds of winning the Vuelta two years ago but he wasn't at his sparkling best at the recent Tour of Poland and he may have to share leadership responsibilities with Ineos team-mate Pavel Sivakov.
Joao Almeida hasn't kicked on after his breakout fourth at the 2020 Giro as UAE Team Emirates would have hoped but the Portuguese remains an excellent rider nonetheless, while Remco Evenepoel looked in exceptional form when winning the recent Clasica de San Sebastien and has always promised big things and invariably delivers. But the Belgian has yet to show that he can handle the unique test of a three-week Grand Tour, failing to finish on his only previous attempt at the 2021 Giro.
And then there is 2018 Vuelta winner Simon Yates, who could easily return to his stellar form of that year if on song but the Brit has flattered to deceive since his sole Grand Tour success. A distant third at the 2021 Giro is his best three-week result since his win in 2018 but he has also failed to complete three of his last six Grand Tours.
It's shaping up to be an intriguing fight for the red jersey but with questions for a few of the main contenders to answer, Giro winner Hindley looks the solid option to go close to a historic Grand Tour double.
The young rider classification isn't usually one of the more interesting markets at Grand Tour, but that isn't the case at this year's Vuelta as a number of the overall contenders are also eligible for the white jersey competition.
Almeida and Evenepoel are the favourites but last year's winner of the jersey, Switzerland's Gino Mader, may be the forgotten rider.
Mader has had an interrupted season but returned at the recent Vuelta a Burgos, finishing 27th overall. That was much better than he managed in the corresponding race last season - he finished 60th - before he came fifth overall at the Vuelta a Espana.
While riders such as Almeida and Evenepoel will hope to win the white jersey as a product of a potential general-classification success, Mader, knowing a challenge for the red jersey is perhaps out of his grasp at the moment, could decide to solely focus on retaining the young rider prize.