Chris Froome to lead Team Sky’s Vuelta challenge
Line-up includes five former stage winners – but no place for Wiggins, who defends Tour of Britain title
Team Sky have confirmed that Chris Froome will lead their nine-man line-up in the final Grand Tour of 2014, the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), which starts this coming Saturday. There’s no place for Sir Bradley Wiggins, confirmed last week as defending his Tour of Britain title next month.
The British WorldTour outfit is looking to put a disappointing Tour de France behind it, which saw Froome start as favourite only to withdraw through injury on stage 5 following a series of crashes, with back-up overall contender Richie Porte seeing his challenge falter as he struggled with illness.
Froome, who emerged as a general classification rider when he finished runner-up to Juan Jose Cobo in the 2011 edition of the Spanish race is one of five past Vuelta stage winners in the team named today, the others being Philip Deignan, Mikel Nieve, Vasil Kiryienka and Dario Cataldo.
The line-up is completed by current British road champion Peter Kennaugh, Luke Rowe, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Christian Knees.
Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: "This year’s Vuelta is a great opportunity for us to get back to Grand Tour racing and I’m delighted that we’ll go there with a strong team that’s very capable of performing well.
"Chris Froome will be our team leader and it’s great to have him back on the bike and focused on the challenge ahead. He was obviously very disappointed after having to withdraw from the Tour de France but Chris has recovered and trained well since the injury. He’s now more determined than ever to get back to what he does best – riding Grand Tours.
"Chris is joined in the line-up by Peter Kennaugh and Luke Rowe, demonstrating once again the depth of British talent we have in the squad as they are both capable of making a big impact at the Vuelta. Philip Deignan and Mikel Nieve both race their second Grand Tours of the season and will add real quality in the mountains, with Dario Cataldo adding all-round ability to the team.
"Experience and expertise are vital components when selecting any successful team and Chris has three hugely experienced riders alongside him in Christian Knees, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Vasil Kiryienka. Together they have raced 36 Grand Tours and that adds a huge amount of value to the team.
"We’re all excited, focused and ready to get started."
Froome added: "This is exactly the sort of challenge that I need after the disappointment of withdrawing from the Tour de France. You can’t dwell on disappointment, you have to move on quickly to next thing and the Vuelta has become the perfect race for me to focus on.
"I’ve always really enjoyed racing at the Vuelta, it’s a tough race but a great opportunity for the whole team. I know that the level of competition will be incredibly high this year, but we've got a strong line up so we hope to be as competitive as possible."
"I’m really pleased with how my recovery has gone since the Tour, I’ve been training hard and the support team are pleased with my progress. I'm a little bit light on racing days this year so getting a Grand Tour under my belt will not only help me now, but it will also help my preparation for next year.
"Going for the win will certainly be tough, but we’ll give it everything we’ve got."
This year’s race has an unusually strong field in terms of overall contenders, with a number of Grand Tour winners. Besides Froome, defending champion Chris Horner of Lampre Merida is expected to start, as is Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, although having fractured his tibia at the Tour de France he will be aiming for stage wins rather than the overall.
Alejnadro Valverde is another former Vuelta winner likely to take part, as is his Movistar team mate Nairo Quintana, winner of this year’s Giro d’Italia, while 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans lines up for BMC Racing. Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez and Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Rigoberto Uran lead the list of those aiming for their first Grand Tour victory.