- Associated Press - Thursday, August 21, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - With his rivals banged and bruised, Colombian climber Nairo Quintana is viewing the Spanish Vuelta as an excellent opportunity to win his second grand tour of the season and confirm his status as cycling’s rising star.

A crash-laden Tour de France last month forced both Chris Froome and Alberto Contador to withdraw with injuries. The two former Tour winners now look to the Vuelta as a chance to rebound from a disappointing summer.

Here are five things you should know about the three-week race beginning in Jerez on Saturday:



Quintana has several factors in his favor: he knows the terrain, he is on a winning streak, and he is in better shape than his rivals.

The 24-year-old Movistar cyclist is on a stellar run over the last two years. His rise began in 2013 when he won the Tour of Basque Country in northern Spain before he surpassed that by finishing runner-up in the Tour de France behind Froome.

Then came his win at this year’s Giro d’Italia, his first grand tour victory. And last week he warmed up by winning the Tour of Burgos in northern Spain.

“I am happy with my level of fitness because I am on a good run for the three weeks that lie ahead,” Quintana said.

Quintana should also be motivated after Movistar opted not to include him on its team for the Tour this year, giving the lead role to Alejandro Valverde.

The only potential problem facing Quintana may come from within his own team.

Movistar announced that both Quintana and Valverde would lead its team at the Vuelta, creating a scenario where the two may compete instead of working in unison.



Froome’s attempt at defending his Tour de France title lasted just five stages before three tumbles from his bike fractured his hands and wrists.

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