Tour de France contenders to start Volta ao Algarve
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Tour de France contenders to start Volta ao Algarve

by VeloNation Press at 9:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix
 

This year the Volta ao Algarve will enjoy more attention than in years past, with competing race, the Tour of California, moving to a later time slot in May. The Portuguese race beings on Wednesday February 17th, and marks the return to competition for some Tour de France contenders, and the next step in preparation for others. It's also one of the last opportunities for those riders targeting the Spring Classics to get in some solid racing miles.

The five-day stage race takes place in the southern part of Portugal. Twenty-three teams are expected to take the start and will digest a steady diet of climbing as they pedal toward the closing time trail that finishes on Sunday in Portimão.

This year's race will see strong contingent riders focused on July, including Team RadioShack's Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer. Both riders will be making an appearance alongside their former teammate, and Volta ao Algrave defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana). Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who's fresh off the overall win in the Tour of the Mediterranean, will also be taking the start. The Spaniard has focused on being competitive early in the season this year, presumably due to his March date with the Court for Arbitration in Sport, where the International Cycling Union (UCI) will look to have his Italian racing ban extended worldwide.

Garmin-Transitions leader Christian Vande Velde will also make the trip to Portugal, as he looks to avoid injury and find the form of 2008, where he finished the Tour de France in fourth overall. The American will have sole leadership of the team this July after former teammate Bradley Wiggins jumped across to the British Team Sky. Euskaltel-Euskadi's Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sánchez has changed his focus to the Tour de France this year, and will also use Algrave as a stepping stone for the Tour.

For the Spring Classics contingent, Cervélo TestTeam will bring Norwegian Thor Hushovd, while the RadioShack team will start Gert Steegmans and Sébastien Rosseler. Both Belgians started their season last month at Tour Down Under, with the former expected to lead the American team's Classics bid.

The Quick Step team has opted to bring Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder and emerging Classics force Sylvain Chavanel to Portugal.  The Belgian team, who has ruled the cobbled Classics for the past two years, will also give new recruit lljo Keisse and promising young rider Wouter Weylandt a start.

Team Rabobank has confirmed Nick Nuyens and Lars Boom will be in attendance, while Katusha's Robbie McEwen will build on his stage win last week in the Mallorca Challenge. With the Belgian calendar's opening weekend at the end of the month, the Classics men don't have much time left to find their form.

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