Freire, Haussler, Kittel psyched for bunch finish in Vuelta
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Freire, Haussler, Kittel psyched for bunch finish in Vuelta

by Shane Stokes at 10:51 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Former world champion feeling better after early illness

Oscar FreireYesterday’s sixth stage of the Vuelta a España was one which some felt might have led to a big group sprint, but the Liquigas-Cannondale team had other thoughts and wrested clear on the descent. Together with Movistar’s Pablo Lastras, they hammered to the finish where Peter Sagan took the stage win and defending race champion Vincenzo Nibali gained time over his rivals.

Today’s stage is in theory more straightforward, and three of the race’s fast finishers have their fingers crossed that the sprinters will finally have their say.

One of those is Garmin-Cervélo rider Heinrich Haussler, who has won big sprints in the past but who will ride today for his American team-mate Tyler Farrar. “Today the course isn’t like the other days,” he said before the start. “There’s only 2000 metres of climbing but we’re going to have crosswinds all day. It’s not as warm as for the past six days.

“If there are twenty guys up the road and the peloton is happy with it, there won’t be a bunch sprint, but I don’t think so. It should be a sprint. Today, we’ll set it up for Tyler.”

The second is Rabobank’s protected sprinter, Oscar Freire, who has taken seven Vuelta stages thus far in his career. He was under the weather but not feels that his form is picking up; that gives him encouragement.

“I’ve been sick at the beginning of the Vuelta, that’s why I considered pulling out,” he explained. “Today I feel better and I believe that I’m in the same shape as the others. Finally, we have a stage for sprinters today. This is an occasion for me not to miss.”

Freire and Farrar are two of the quickest riders in the bunch and will fancy their chances. However one rider who will be feared at the finish is Skil-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel. He won four stages in the Tour of Poland and, according to Liquigas-Cannondale DS Mario Scirea, he is someone he regards as very quick indeed. In fact, he even tips him above one of his own riders.

“I don’t think that anything else but a bunch sprint can happen today because Marcel Kittel is in the race. I’m impressed by this rider,” he said prior to the start. “When Purito won [Joaquim Rodrigues, who took stage 5 at Valdepeñas de Jaén], he was dropped only 17km before the end. This guy is much more than a sprinter. He’s a different kind of rider than Peter Sagan. In a standard sprint, I think that Kittel normally beats Sagan.”

It remains to be seen if Kittel will win a stage in his first Grand Tour, but if his sprinting today is anything like his directeur sportif Christian Guiberteau’s predictions, he’ll be right on the mark.

“There’ll be a breakaway with at least one rider from Andalucia and one from Cofidis,” he said, then going on to talk about his team’s strategy. “We’ll ride behind. Geschke, Geniez and Doi will take turns. If needed, Fröhlinger will go and help them. De Kort, Curvers, Timmer will pull. The last lead out man is Tom Veelers. Hopefully, that’ll make Marcel Kittel a winner.”

The final part is yet to happen, of course, but he correctly called the teams of three out of the four riders who attacked at the start.

The aggressors were Cofidis duo Luis Angel Mate and Julien Fouchard, Andalucia Caja Granada’s Antonio Cabello and Steve Houanard (AG2R La Mondiale). They are currently clear but with the peloton chasing hard behind, the sprinters may well get their chance. Freire, Farrar and Kittel will be licking their lips, as will rivals like Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek); today may show who is the quickest of those.

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