Caisse d’Epargne confident it can fight for podium in Vuelta a España
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Caisse d’Epargne confident it can fight for podium in Vuelta a España

by Conal Andrews at 6:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Arroyo, Sanchez, Bruseghin, Plaza and Uran all possible leaders of Spanish team

David ArroyoGiro d’Italia runner up David Arroyo and Clasica San Sebastian winner Luis Leon Sanchez are just two of several team riders the Caisse d’Epargne management believes are capable of fighting for a podium place in this year’s Vuelta a España.

General manager Eusebio Unzue is feeling bullish about their chances prior to the start of the race this weekend in Seville, and is convinced that the team will play a major part in the outcome of the race.

“This is one of our main aims of the season,” he said. “We will be at the start with a solid squad and the riders in good shape, with the necessary motivation to have a brilliant performance.”

The French-sponsored Spanish team won last year’s race with Alejandro Valverde, who put in a very controlled performance to win his first-ever Grand Tour. Normally regarded as an explosive rider who wins stages but has at least one bad day, the Murcian avoided any lapses in form by holding back on stage victories.

However he will miss this year’s race due to a suspension relating to his links with the Operacion Puerto investigation.

Instead of having one out-and-out leader, the team will rely on several riders it says are in top shape. “We will count on riders who had excellent results in previous races such as David Arroyo,” said Unzue. “His great performance in the Giro d’Italia and his second position gives him special credit to fight for the victory. Marzio Bruseghin comes in his best form and has already done well in three week races. We also have to mention Luis Leon Sanchez, Ruben Plaza and Rigoberto Uran. In short, we have several riders with whom we can try to fight for a place in the top three.”

Unzue hopes that the all round strength of the Caisse d’Epargne squad will be enough to overcome the challenge of several key riders on other teams. He names several others as being real contenders, saying that almost every big rider will take part except for Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.

In fact, this year’s Vuelta has perhaps the strongest lineup in recent history, with the sport’s top sprinters deciding to take part to prepare for the world road race championships in Australia.

“The start list is impressive,” Unzue noted, naming those who he felt were most dangerous in terms of the general classification. “I think that we have to take into account the big motivation of the Spanish riders such as Sastre, Mosquera and Anton. The route suits Anton very well. Besides, Nibali and Franck Schleck may have more freshness because of their calendar they have accomplished until now. We will have to see how the fatigue influences the performance of Andy Schleck and Denis Menchov who fought for the Tour de France until the last day.”

Scheck is a double runner-up in the Tour, while Menchov was third this year and has won two Vueltas and the 2009 Giro d’Italia.

Predictably, Unzue said that he thinks the mountain stages will be the key points of the race. Unzue believes that they are generally not too difficult, apart from the legs to Cotobello and Bola del Mundo, but that they will be enough to create differences. He also expects to see a lot of nervous racing and attacking on those that finish in Malaga, Valdepeñas de Jaen, Alcoy and Vilanova I la Geltru.

The team will next year be sponsored by Movistar, the Spanish telecommunications company. It has been backed by Caisse d’Epargne for several seasons but the French bank decided to end its association a year earlier than had originally been expected. After a long period of searching, Unzue and several others secured a deal with Telefonica, Movistar’s parent company. It hopes at some point in the future to sign Contador, who has expressed an interest in riding for a Spanish team.


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