Richard Carapaz has been put in doubt for the Vuelta by a crash last Sunday, which caused him a contusion to his right shoulder and several other bruises. Photo: Daniel Tapia/Reuters

MADRID – Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz has been declared doubtful for the Vuelta a Espana two days before the final Grand Tour of the year begins, after hurting his shoulder in a crash.

“Richard Carapaz’s appearance in the race has been put in doubt by a crash last Sunday, which caused him a contusion to his right shoulder and several other bruises,” the rider’s team Movistar said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.

“A decision on his participation in the event will be taken, after pertinent assessments, on Thursday and Friday.”

The Ecuadorian, 26, clinched his first Grand Tour win in May by pipping Italian Vincenzo Nibali to victory in the Giro.

Meanwhile, South America has become a hotbed of elite cycling in recent years and could be set for a hat-trick of Grand Tour wins as the Vuelta a Espana begins on Saturday, with the list of favourites dominated by riders from Andean nations.

Nairo Quintana, the 2016 winner, and his Colombian compatriots Miguel Angel Lopez and Esteban Chaves are among the leading contenders for the final Grand Tour of the year, which has been hit by a number of high-profile absences.

Carapaz was also billed as one of the top contenders after his surprise victory at the Giro d’Italia this year, but he is now fighting to be fit in time for the opening team time trial in Torrevieja after hurting his shoulder.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma looks to be Europe’s best hope after finishing third at this year’s Giro, while his Dutch teammate Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands could also pose a threat to the South American contingent.

Egan Bernal of Colombia is missing the race after becoming the first South American to win the Tour de France last month, and is one of a number of top riders that will be absent, making for a start list lacking stardust.

Chris Froome, the 2011 and 2017 champion, is still injured, while last year’s winner Simon Yates is also sitting out the Vuelta, as are Vincenzo Nibali and Geraint Thomas, meaning no Tour de France winners will be competing for the first time in six years.

British team Ineos are not prioritising the Vuelta after capturing yet another Tour de France victory in July, and their flag will be flown by 24-year-old Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart, in the absence of Bernal, Thomas and Froome.

Movistar are the team perhaps best equipped to capture the red jersey as they boast three potential leaders in world champion Alejandro Valverde, 39, plus Quintana and Carapaz, provided the Ecuadorian recovers from his shoulder injury.

Astana’s Lopez gained some unwanted publicity for a physical altercation with a fan at this year’s Giro, and will be looking to make headlines for the right reasons at the Vuelta as he bids to improve on his third-place finish last time.

Fellow Colombian Chaves will lead the charge of last year’s winning team Mitchelton Scott in the absence of Yates and his twin brother Adam, eyeing a first ever Grand Tour victory after coming second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta in 2016.

The race features eight uphill finishes, before culminating in Madrid on September 15.

Reuters