Eusebio Unzué sees a sentimental and dramatic Vuelta a España course
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eusebio Unzué sees a sentimental and dramatic Vuelta a España course

by Ben Atkins at 2:59 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Team Movistar manager excited by race’s return to the Basque country

eusebio unzueEusebio Unzué, the manager of Team Movistar (formerly Caisse d’Epargne), is impressed with the 2011 Vuelta a España route, which was unveiled in Alicante, Spain today. Like many, he welcomes the return of the race to the north western Basque country after 33 years; what is unusual though, for a team that has taken seven victories in the Tour de France, and three in each of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta, Movistar will be coming to the race without an overall contender.

“For me, the Vuelta will play a very important sentimental part,” he explained to La Marca. “I will look forward to seeing the peloton in the Basque Country, especially for the Basque fans: pioneers of the sport, who are the most noble, who never give up. The spectacle will be exciting especially for the fans of Euskaltel, a great team, and the finishes give them chances of victory.”

There are six mountaintop finishes in this year’s race, including the infamous Anglirú on stage 15; it is a much earlier summit that concerns Unzué though.

“My first concern is the stage to Sierra Nevada on the fourth day. In August, with the heat, at more than 2,000 meters of altitude and the 25km climb, that day could be a drama for some. The rest of the route we already know.

“It is a Vuelta for climbers, with nervous finishes and few options for the sprinters.”

With 2009 race winner Alejandro Valverde suspended until the end of 2011 [although he is constantly appealing against his two-year ban for being involved in Eufemiano Fuetes’ blood-doping ring – Ed] and with last year’s tenth placed Luis León Sanchez having left the team for Rabobank, Unzué finds himself in the unusual position of contemplating a Grand Tour with no overall contender.

Two new signings to the team, Xavier Tondo, who finished sixth for the Cervélo TestTeam last year, and 24-year-old Beñat Intxausti from Euskaltel-Euskadi, will give the team some hope in the race though.

“Tondo is our strong man and we trust him for some races,” Unzué explained, “especially those that are a week long, like Paris Nice and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Last year he was brilliant in the Vuelta and I hope that experience will serve him well and bring us a lot.”

The younger rider, who came second in last year’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco and third in the Vuelta a Asturias, will not be under any pressure to get results however.

“We are giving Intxausti no responsibility,” he said. “He is a good rider, with quality, but it has to mature.”

Overall, the Movistar team will be strong in 2011, but without an overall contender it will have to change the way that it approaches the Grand Tours.

“The level of the team is very good, but we need a leader,” he said. “So that may be our incentive: start without a leader and approach the race in a different way. We have everything on our team: [Francisco] Ventoso and [Jose] Rojas for the sprints, Juan Mauricio[ Soler for the mountains, Rubén Plaza as one for all terrains, and the men for the overall are David Arroyo and ]Marzio[ Bruseghin.”

The new jersey of Movistar will be very visible in 2011’s increasingly monochrome peloton, but it’s unlikely that any of it’s riders will exchange it for the Vuelta leader’s jersey when the race finishes in Madrid on September 11th.


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