Team Sky has confirmed its line-up for the Vuelta, which starts this Saturday with a team time trial in Benidorm. Bradley Wiggins, forced out of last month’s Tour de France with a broken collarbone, has recovered and will lead the British ProTeam outfit in the Spanish Grand Tour, the first time he has raced it.
Joining Wiggins are two other British riders, Chris Froome and Ian Stannard, plus Sweden’s Thomas Löfkvist and the Italian pairing of Dario Cioni and Morris Possoni. The team is completed by the Spaniard Xabier Zandio, Australia’s Chris Sutton, who will target the sprint stages, and the Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who at the weekend announced that he will retire at the end of the season.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: “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 Espana.”
Despite losing its team leader, Sky came away from the Tour with two stage wins courtesy of Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Geraint Thomas and Rigoberto Uran both had spells in the best young rider’s white jersey. Nevertheless, Brailsford is delighted to have Wiggins back on board.
“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.
“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.”
Team Sky departed the race in tragic circumstances last year following the death of carer Txema González, and a number of riders and team staff had earlier been struck by a bout of food poisoning.
“The penultimate stage which ends in his home town of Vitoria will be a particularly difficult day for everyone involved,” Brailsoford reflected. “While Txema will forever be in our thoughts, this year’s race should help aid the healing process though and allow people to focus on the future.
Wiggins said: “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 and 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,” he concluded.
“We have a strong team here and everyone will give Bradley the best possible support to ensure he produces a good ride,” added Stannard. “It’s going to be exciting to see how things go for him and I’m really happy to be taking part because it gets another Grand Tour in my legs and that should help in terms of the Classics next year.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.