Wiggins wants strong Vuelta a España performance to thank his fans
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wiggins wants strong Vuelta a España performance to thank his fans

by Shane Stokes at 6:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Sky Procycling lineup finalised for Vuelta a España, solid team announced

Bradley WigginsConfirming its final lineup for the Vuelta a España, Sky Procycling has announced the identities of those who will back Bradley Wiggins in the Spanish Grand Tour. The British rider crashed out of the Tour de France while targeting a podium finish, and recently indicated that he will aim for the maximum possible performance in the race.

He will be joined by the strong Swedish rider Thomas Löfkvist, himself a strong climber and GC rider, plus the British duo Chris Froome and Ian Stannard, Italian pair Dario Cioni and Morris Possoni, the Australian Chris Sutton, Norway’s Kurt-Asle Arvesen and the Spaniard Xabier Zandio.

Wiggins hasn’t raced since crashing out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone, and consequently might be lacking some sharpness. However he has worked hard to be ready and could surprise.

“I’m looking forward to making my return at the Vuelta a Espana. It’s a race I haven’t ridden before so it’ll be exciting to take part in,” he said. “I want to produce a strong performance for all those people who have supported me since my crash at the Tour de France.

“The level of encouragement I’ve received has been overwhelming and I’d like to do everyone proud. I have a great team here to support me and it should be a really exciting three weeks of racing.”

Wiggins produced a career-best performance on the road when he won the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. One of the top two pre-Tour de France races, his victory was unexpected and confirmed that he had moved to a new level. He insisted that he had not peaked too soon and said at the start of the Tour de France that he had improved on his form for cycling’s top event.

Wiggins was aiming to improve on his fourth place of 2009 and appeared to be riding well prior to crashing on stage seven and breaking his collarbone. Sky Procycling principal Dave Brailsford told VeloNation in Paris at the end of the race that he was convinced that Wiggins would have been in the top three.

In his absence, the team rose to the occasion and picked up two stage wins with Edvald Boasson Hagen. It also had Rigoberto Uran in the white jersey of best young rider heading into the final week, although he ultimately became sick and slipped back to his final finishing position of 24th overall.

Brailsford knows that the performance there was a big step forward in the confidence of the team, and believes that momentum will continue in Spain. “Everyone was pleased with the team’s performance at the Tour de France and we will be looking to continue racing in the same way at the Vuelta a España,” he said.

“Having Bradley back has reinvigorated us all. He will lead the team and has recovered and trained well since his operation, but the fact he hasn’t been able to race for seven weeks means we will have to take things day by day.”

If he can ride to the top of his abilities, he pointed out that he will have a strong backup. “Bradley has three hugely-experienced riders there to support him in Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Dario Cioni and Xabier Zandio, while Thomas Löfkvist is also a veteran of nine Grand Tours, despite his relatively young age.

“Chris Froome and Ian Stannard’s inclusion demonstrates once again the depth of British talent we have in the squad, while Morris Possoni and Chris Sutton have also impressed us again this season with their respective climbing and sprint capabilities.”

Brailsford paid tribute to team soigneur Txema González, who fell ill and died during last year’s race. The team withdrew then and he said that while heading back to the race will bring back tough memories, that he believed it would ultimately help the healing.

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