Directeurs sportifs and team managers of the 22 outfits competing in the final Grand Tour of 2011, the Vuelta a Espana, which begins tomorrow with a team time trial in the Costa Blanca resort of Benidorm, have been talking about their hopes and targets for the three-week race.
The race also sees the final standalone competition of 2011 in our Fantasy Cycling contest , with a BMC bike on offer to the winner as well as other great prizes courtesy of our friends at Evans Cycles. Head over here for our Vuelta preview, where we’ve added expert analysis of the opening few stages by Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas.
Hopefully, in laying bare their plans, the team bosses will help you decide who you might pick in your Fantasy Vuelta team, so here’s what each of the 22 teams aim to achieve over the next three weeks of racing in Spain.
Dario Mariuzzo, Liquigas-Cannondale: “We’ve won the Vuelta with Vincenzo Nibali last year and we want to do the same again with him. Peter Sagan is here for winning a stage but this is his first Grand Tour and he’s here mostly to learn.”
Vincent Lavenu, Ag2r-La Mondiale: “We want to do as well as last year. Nicolas Roche did very well [sixth overall]. He’s had health problems this year but he’s up for another good performance. The team will be compact around him. David Le Lay, Lloyd Mondory and even the young Steve Houanard will get their chance to go for a stage win. We’ll ask them to be audacious.”
Antonio Cabello, Andalucia-Caja Granada: “We’d like to win a stage and we’re here to honour the invitation of the organisers. We’re very proud to take part in the Vuelta.”
Rik Verbrugghe, BMC: “We don’t have any rider for winning the Vuelta but we can get an honourable position with either Mathias Frank or Mauro Santambrogio. Greg Van Avermaet will try to win a stage at least and Taylor Phinney will ride his first Grand Tour. It’ll be a interesting test for him.”
Stéphane Augé, Cofidis: “Rein Taarämae is our designated rider for GC. David Moncoutié will go for a stage win and of course the king of the mountain price again. It’s a dream for him and for the Cofidis team. We believe a lot in our young riders Yohan Bagot and Julien Fouchard. Nicolas Vogondy is on a recovery process after a toxoplasmosis. His morale will improve day by day.”
Gorka Gerrikagoitia, Euskaltel-Euskadi: “It’s all for Igor Antón who had the red jersey when he crashed last year. He’s even stronger this year.”
Joxean Fernandez Matxin, Geox-TMC: “Our two leaders start with equal chances. Denis Menchov has won the Vuelta twice and Carlos Sastre finished second behind on those two occasions. With Fabio Duarte and Juan José Cobo, we’ve got two great lieutenants ready to fight. Our goal is to win the Vuelta.”
Jan Schaffrath, HTC-Highroad: “We’ve got four sprinters: Mark Cavendish, John Degenkolb, Matthew Goss and Leigh Howard. Our goals are clear. Interestingly, Cavendish isn’t our only chance of winning. We’ll try to do well on GC with Kanstantsin Siutsou.”
Dimitri Konyshev, Katusha: “Our team is built for helping Joaquim Rodriguez on a daily basis. At Katusha, ‘Purito’ is the one who can win stages and GC.”
Bruno Vicino, Lampre-ISD: “It’s simple: we’ll ride for GC with Michele Scarponi and for stage wins with Alessandro Petacchi who came back from the Tour de France very disappointed as he never found the right condition.”
Lars Michaelsen, Team Leopard-Trek: “The Schleck brothers aren’t here but we’ve got two GC contenders with Jakob Fuglsang and Maxime Monfort. We’ll try to get a good position as early as on stage 4 at Sierra Nevada. We’ve got a strong group around Daniele Bennati for the stages that won’t finish uphill.”
José Luis Arrieta, Movistar: “We don’t really have a GC rider, even though Marzio Bruseghin and Beñat Intxausti can target an honourable position. We’re giving a try to our young prospect Angel Madrazo. We believe a lot in him. We’ll also try and win a stage thanks to our team work.”
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, Omega Pharma-Lotto: “Jurgen Van den Broeck is of course our leader but he hasn’t had a single day of racing since his crash at the Tour de France. Day after day, he’ll figure out about his real possibility to ride well on GC. If not, he’ll focus on a stage win instead. As a preparation for the 2012 season, it’s important that he finishes a Grand Tour this year.”
Giuseppe Martinelli, Astana: “Our first goal is to win a stage and it can only be a mountain stage with either Robert Kiserlovski, Andreï Kaschechkin or Fredrik Kessiakoff. I think the latter is our best chance on GC. Kaschechkin is very motivated too but he hasn’t raced enough before the Vuelta.”
Rik Van Slycke, Quick Step: “The team is well balanced with riders who can go for GC and ride well in mountain stages: Marc De Maar, Dario Cataldo and Kevin Seeldraeyers. Tom Boonen is hungry for winning and Sylvain Chavanel will be free to go for the stages he likes.”
Erik Breukink, Rabobank: “Our GC riders are our young guns Bauke Mollema and Steven Kruijswijk. We target stage wins with Oscar Freire, Matti Breschel and Luis Leon Sanchez. The inaugural team time trial is also a goal. The hill at the beginning of the course favours us.”
Bradley McGee, Saxo Bank-SunGard: “We’re gonna support Chris Anker Sørensen who’s coming of age and deserves support after everything he’s done in the past for the others. There’s no pressure whatsoever but JJ Haedo is here for results. We also have three young riders who are here to lose their virginity in Grand Tours: Jaroslaw Marycz, Jonas Aaen and Rafael Majka. It’s exciting!”
Christian Guiberteau, Skil-Shimano: “We’ve made Alexandre Geniez a protected rider and we expect that he enters the final top 15 or wins a stage. Marcel Kittel is starting his first Grand Tour against the world’s best sprinters. He can also win a stage.”
Steven de Jongh, Sky: “Our ambition is a good final position with Bradley Wiggins. He hasn’t raced at all since he crashed at the Tour de France but he has trained very well. He lacks competition rhythm but he’s confident. We’d like to win the inaugural team time trial but the hill at the beginning doesn’t make it a standard course.”
Johnny Weltz, Garmin-Cervélo: “Dan Martin missed his spot on our Tour de France team by very little, so he’s our captain for GC at the Vuelta, with Christophe Le Mével just behind him. We’ll look for stage wins with Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar. The terrain will decide which one of those two will be our sprinter, Heinrich when it’s undulated, Tyler when it’s flat.”
Viatcheslav Ekimov, RadioShack: “We have a strong team with several riders for GC, particularly Janez Brajkovic and Andreas Klöden. Tiago Machado seems able to do a great performance in a mountain stage. We’ve seen the course of the inaugural team time trial and it suits us at perfection. The team classification is also a goal for us. We want to put our unlucky Tour de France behind us for good.”
Hilaire Van der Schueren, Vacansoleil-DCM: “Wout Poels and Stijn Devolder are our two GC riders. Stijn seems to finally be in a good shape. He worked too much in the early part of the season and that made him tired. It affected his morale too. We hope for stage wins and why not with Dutch champion Pim Ligthart.”
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.