Thomas Löfkvist to lead Team Sky squad in Vuelta
Swede to focus on GC while Simon Gerrans overcomes injury to target stage wins
Sweden’s Thomas Löfkvist, who finished last month’s Tour de France in 17th position overall, making him the highest placed Team Sky rider in the general classification, leads the British ProTour outfit’s nine man squad for the Vuelta, which starts in a little over a fortnight’s time.
Two other members of the Team Sky squad that competed in the Tour de France will line up alongside the Swede when the Vuelta, 75 years old this year, starts with a nocturnal team time trial in Seville on Saturday 28th August – the Argentina-born Spaniard, Juan Antonio Flecha, and Australia’s Simon Gerrans, who has recovered from the broken arm he suffered on Stage 8 of last month’s race.
Three British riders also make the line up, Peter Kennaugh and Ian Stannard, who respectively finished second and third behind team mate Geraint Thomas in June’s National Road Race Championships, and Ben Swift. The other three places are taken by South Africa’s John-Lee Augustyn, Finnish rider Kjell Carlström and Norway’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug.
Team Principal Dave Brailsford told the Team Sky website: "Following Thomas Löfkvist's performance at the Tour de France he'll go in as our GC rider but we'll also be heading to the Vuelta with a stage-win mentality.”
Although Bradley Wiggins won the opening prologue in May’s Giro d’Italia, a performance that put him into the race leader’s maglia rosa, Team Sky is still waiting for its first road stage victory in a Grand Tour, and Brailsford singled out Gerrans as one rider who can provide that.
“Simon Gerrans is a key stage winner - that's his forté and how he made his name,” explained Brailsford. “Unfortunately he had to drop out of the Tour because of injury so he wants to get out there in Spain and try and search out some stage wins.”
Brailsford added: “The team as a whole will be on the front foot, we want to be attacking. It's a good opportunity for all the guys - we'll choose our days and the stages to take the race on.”
He concluded: "It's a home Tour for Flecha and he'll obviously be looking to shine, while someone like John-Lee Augustyn has had a difficult season but this gives him some structure to the campaign - he's a very good climber and is now coming into form."
Gerrans has achieved the rare distinction of having won stages in all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, winning a stage each in the Vuelta and Giro d’Italia last year while riding for Cervélo TestTeam and a stage of the Tour de France in 2008 when he was at Crédit Agricole, making him the first Australian to do so.
The 30-year-old from Melbourne returns to racing next week with the Tour du Limousin, and admitted that the prospect of riding in the Vuelta had helped him recover from the injury he sustained during the Tour de France.
"It's a big, big race and it's given me a real focus for the last part of the year," he said, adding: "We've got a strong team to go for stage wins and get in the crucial breaks. Pretty much everyone on the team is capable of doing that if and when the opportunity arises."