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Vuelta a Espana - Cycling: The story so far

The early stages of the Vuelta a Espana have belonged to Sam Bennett, with the Irish sprinter having collected two stage victories already.

However, he is still to don the red jersey, with Jumbo-Visma's Robert Gesink and Mike Teunissen receiving that honour, but it is Edoardo Affini who currently leads the race heading into Monday's first rest day.

After the flat opening in the Netherlands, the jersey could again change hands when the ace resumes on Tuesday, with the road ready to turn up when the riders take on a 153.5km medium-mountain stage between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Laguardia.

What

Vuelta a Espana 2022

Where

Netherlands and Spain

When

Friday 19th August-Sunday 11th September 2022

How to watch

GCN+, Discovery+ and Eurosport

Odds Primoz Roglic 11/10, Remco Evenepoel 9/2, Jai Hindley 13/2, Richard Carapaz 9/1, Simon Yates 12/1

Dutch delight

This year's Vuelta started in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the fourth time the race has held its opening stages abroad.

And Dutchman Gesink took the leader's jersey after his Jumbo-Visma outfit won the 23.2km opening team time-trial.

The 36-year-old, who earlier in his career recorded three top 10s in this race, was allowed to cross the line first and take the victory.

Jumbo-Visma, led by three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic, were 13 seconds faster than Richard Carapaz's Ineos Grenadiers, while Remco Evenepoel and his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team colleagues were a further second back.

Bennett proves his worth

It has been a difficult couple of years for Sam Bennett, with his injury issues even leading to questions regarding his character.

After being snubbed for the Tour de France as Bora-Hansgrohe opted to put all of their weight behind Aleksandr Vlasov's general classification push, the Irishman has proved his worth so far in Spain.

On Saturday's first stage on the open road, the 31-year-old had too much for Trek-Segafredo's Mads Pedersen as he won the 175.1km stage from 's-Hertogenbosch back to Utrecht.

Bennett did it again 24 hours later, with Pedersen reprising his role as the unlucky second on the 193.5km stage in and around Breda.

The speedster has previously won stages at the Vuelta in 2019 and 2020 and could follow in the footsteps of the man who discovered him, Sean Kelly, by winning the Vuelta's points classification.

Fellow sprinter Teunissen took over the red jersey on Saturday, before a third Jumbo rider, Affini, took the race lead on Sunday.

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Early days in the overall

The biggest questions coming into the race were over the condition of Roglic after the Slovenian took time off the bike, having crashed out of last month's Tour de France.

He looked good in Friday's TTT and with a longer individual time-trial on Stage 10, the route undoubtedly helps his chances of becoming just the second man to win four Vuelta titles.

Carapaz, who was second in 2020 and beat Roglic at the 2019 Giro d'Italia, will be focused on making inroads in the mountains, while Evenepoel's policy may be to hang in there and take any chances that arise.

This is only the Belgian's second Grand Tour and at 22, he still has to prove he can compete over three weeks of racing.

Giro champion Jai Hindley is also sure to launch attacks, while 2018 Vuelta hero Simon Yates, the last man to win the race before Roglic's run began, is always dangerous.

What next at the Vuelta?

This year's Vuelta is packed with climbs as the peloton traverses the north of Spain.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday's stages are all classed as medium-mountain stages, while Thursday, Saturday and Sunday see the race tackle the real high ground.

Roglic is 15/4 to lay down a marker to his rivals by winning Stage 4, but could the route between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Laguardia mark the return of Julian Alaphilippe at 5/1?

The Frenchman missed the Tour following his crash at April's Liege-Bastogne-Liege and, with Evenepoel, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team leader Alaphilippe, will be on stage-hunting duty over the next three weeks.

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