Contador, Rodriguez, Freire and Sanchez head strong Spanish worlds team
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Contador, Rodriguez, Freire and Sanchez head strong Spanish worlds team

by Shane Stokes at 7:21 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
National selector says Freire ‘is building form and, most importantly, is eager”

Joaquim RodriguezAn extremely strong lineup has been announced to represent Spain at the world road race championships in Limburg, with the top three finishers in the Vuelta a España, a three time worlds winner and a former Olympic champion amongst the nine riders named today.

Vuelta winner Alberto Contador will return to the worlds four years after his last preparation in Varese, and is clearly in good shape. So too longtime Vuelta leader Joaquim Rodriguez, tird overall, and second-place finisher Alejandro Valverde, whose explosive characteristics and fast finishes make them even more suited to the course, which takes in many of the climbs and roads of the Amstel Gold Race.

Oscar Freire also won the latter race this spring, and arguably would have done so had he not looked back countless times when clear in a solo move. He was reeled in less than 100 metres from the line and, while disappointed, said he gained valuable insight into the course that would stand to him in the worlds.

The 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez is the fifth big name and is hoping to be back to strong form after a bad Tour crash prevented him from defending that title.

The line-up will be completed by Valverde’s Movistar team-mates Jonathan Castroviejo and Pablo Lastras, Juan Antonio Flecha plus Dani Moreno, who was fifth in the Vuelta.

Spanish coach José Luis De Santos describes the selection as a strong one, particularly on the tough Limburg course. “It has nine riders with several advantages, with riders who have finished the Vuelta strongly and are very motivated for a race that suits them very well in relation to other years.”

He accepts that the Spaniards are favourites, but doesn’t want Spain to be seen as the only country in that position. “For me there are two teams that are even more so, like Belgium, which has a very strong nine, and Italy, which is always a reference in the world championships,” he said. “[But] that does not mean that we don’t aim for everything.”

Freire has said that this season could be his last and while he’s missed a lot of racing due to a bad fall in the Tour, De Santos in convinced he’s on track to being strong in the worlds. He’s in the position to become the first-ever four-time winner of the pro rainbow jersey, and De Santos said that Freire feels ready.

“He is fully recovered from his rib injury, is building form and, most importantly, is eager,” he said. “When he says he is good, it is because he really is, and that is the best guarantee.”

As regards Sanchez, he said that his selection is provisional for now. “He is an important rider in our plans, but we have to see how he recovers from his injury,” he said, referring to the rider who is using the Tour of Britain to test his form. “So we just want to see how this test goes and then we'll talk. I know that he will be the first to stand down [from the team] if he is not good, as was the case with the Olympics.”

If he ultimately does not go, he will be replaced by Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Two riders from the squad will also compete in the time trial on Wednesday 19th, namely Contador and Castroviejo. De Santos tips Contador as someone who could get a very big result, “because he finished up well [in the Tour of Spain] and, with a few days off, will assimilate all the work of the Vuelta.” However he warms that the result is not guaranteed. “Despite the absence of Cancellara or Wiggins, there are riders who have prepared thoroughly, such as Tony Martin or Kessiakoff himself, as we saw in Pontevedra.”

He believes that Catroviejo, who won the Vuelta team time trial with Movistar and who will do the new worlds team trial with them, can finish in the top ten in the individual event.


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