Movistar to start Vuelta without sprinters and with no defined leader
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Movistar to start Vuelta without sprinters and with no defined leader

by VeloNation Press at 5:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Team manager Unzué says road will decide who leads squad

Team MovistarHaving raced solidly this season but appearing to lack an out-and-out leader, the Movistar team will head to the Vuelta a España with a ‘wait and see’ approach, in terms of who will be the protected rider in the race.

The Spanish squad was hit by two tragedies this year, events which perhaps robbed it of riders who could contend for the overall GC in the Vuelta. The first was the tragic death of Xavier Tondo in May, a hard-to-believe domestic accident claiming the life of the likeable Spaniard, and the second was the serious crash suffered by Mauricio Soler in the Tour de Suisse in June.

The Colombian rider suffered head injuries in the crash, which happened when he was sitting second overall. He is still recovering from that and it is uncertain if he will be able to race again.

The Spanish team announced its Vuelta lineup today, confirming that the nine-man squad will be made up of Beñat Intxausti, David López, Sergio Pardilla, Pablo Lastras, Marzio Bruseghin, Ignatas Konovalovas, Ángel Madrazo, Imanol Erviti and Chente García Acosta.

“We haven't got a strongly defined rider you could name within the top favourites for the overall victory,” admits general manager Eusebio Unzué, “but we have a strong block willing to do well. Apart from contesting stage victories, another objective could be taking someone into the final podium.

“The first key stages in Sierra Nevada and La Covatilla will tell us whether it's possible or not. We know that surprises might happen at this point of the season, and we're looking forward to be part of them.”

Several key riders will be missing from the team. One is the sprinter Fran Ventoso, who has picked up five of the team’s victories this season; another is the Spanish champion Jose Joaquin Rojas, who has clocked up three. Also not travelling to Spain is the rider Rui Costa, who won stage eight of this year’s Tour de France, and Vasil Kiryienka, who won a stage of the Giro d’Italia but ran his batteries very low when he raced and won the Route du Sud rather than resting after the Italian tour. He pulled out of the Tour de France and is likely still recovering.

Unzué explained why Ventoso and Rojas are not part of the nine-man squad. “The only stages where we won't stand a chance are those predicted to be sprints,” he said. “Bringing Ventoso and Rojas here was asking for an excessive effort from them after such a long season; plus, we have people enough in strong condition to build a strong team.

“The sprint stages will be really controlled and breaks won't reach the finish, but for the other ones we have riders that can win no matter how it ends.”

Of the riders selected, only one has taken a victory this year. Erviti won the single-day Vuelta a la Rioja in April. Despite that, Unzué insists he is upbeat about the team’s chances. “Lastras, Chente, Erviti and David López are expert riders who have spent many years working together and know the race pretty well. They must be the main block giving solidness to the squad, the ones in charge of managing all situations.

“Plus, I'm really confident about Pardilla, Beñat or Bruseghin. They're really talented and I'm sure they'll be into the fight at some point into the race to snatch important results. Also Madrazo, a debutant, who I'm sure will be the rider most willing to shine here, and which we hope to turn the quality into victories.”

What’s certain is that Unzué is expecting a very tough three weeks. “It's a very difficult parcours. The fact that we have an important test, with 30 kilometers of climbing, already in the fourth day of racing, forces everyone to reach the start in good condition if you don't want to lose too much time that compromises the rest of your Vuelta performance,” he said.

“After the Salamanca ITT, it's practically a daily test. Climbers are the ones most suited to this route, even though the 50 kilometers of time-trialling can balance it out for riders that, despite riding only 'solidly' uphill, can profit from their ITT abilities, just like last year.”

The Vuelta begins in Benidorm this coming Saturday with a 13.5 kilometre individual time trial. The first tough mountain stage that Unzué refers to is the race to Sierra Nevada, which will shake up the general classification next Tuesday.

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