Sports directors and managers of all but two of the teams that will start the 67th Vuelta a Espana in Pamplona tomorrow evening have been outlining their plans for the three-week race. If you’re still undecided on your Fantasy Cycling strategy for the next three weeks, there’s plenty here to get you thinking, although we accept no responsibility for any smokescreens deployed to try and put rivals off the trail of what a team’s real ambitions might be.
The two teams missing? Spanish UCI Professional Continental outfits Andalucia and Caja Rural, but it’s a pretty safe bet that their strategy for the race will be to send riders up the road in the break to get the sponsor’s name in front of the cameras and, in a dream scenario, for them to stay away and fight for the win.
So, over to the men in charge, their comments listed alphabetically by team…
Vincent Lavenu (AG2R-La Mondiale): “We want to have a solid Grand Tour. We have a good team with John Gadret, Rinaldo Nocentini and Nicolas Roche. Gadret is able to finish around fifth overall, he has already proven that at the Giro. Nocentini is very motivated and Roche will be our man for stage wins rather than GC.”
Christian Guiberteau (Argos-Shimano): “We have two good climbers: Alexandre Geniez and Tom Dumoulin. But they have to attack from far away to deliver results. But the GC isn’t for us this year. We’re more focused on stage victories. Our sprinter John Degenkolb can win on the flat but he’s got even more chances in difficult finales like in Stage 9 to Barcelona.”
Alexander Shefer (Astana): “We’re here firstly to ride GC with Frederik Kessiakoff. He was up there last year at the Vuelta until he suffered diarrhoea. He did well at the Tour too. This Vuelta is very hard, it might be good for him if his condition remains good.”
John Lelangue (BMC): “Brent Bookwalter and Steve Morabito are the guys who will be protected, but in a different way than when we bring riders like Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen to a big tour. In that instance, you know you are going for the podium or the top five, which is clearly not the stress or pressure here. The other guys will have individual opportunities to go for stage wins as well.”
Alain Deloeil (Cofidis): “Our goals are to win a stage and to get David Moncoutié to being the King of the Mountains for the fifth consecutive time. After his crash at the Tour de France, he made a positive comeback at the Tour de l’Ain but it’s too early to tell if he’s back at his best level or not. He’s always motivated for the Vuelta. I’m not sure whether it’s his last race or not. If he does well here and reach an agreement with [team manager] Yvon Sanquer, he might be here again next year.”
Gorka Gerrikagoita (Eusktaltel): “We want to get the best possible overall ranking with Igor Anton but without setting any clear goal. We’re targeting points to maintain our status in the WorldTour.”
Franck Pineau (FDJ-BigMat): “Our goal is to win a stage with [French champion] Nacer Bouhanni. We’re too uncertain about Arnold Jeannesson’s condition to set him a goal on GC. He’s got a lot of doubts himself. We’ll try to do well with Rémi Pauriol and give some time to Arnold to being confident again after the injury that forced him to miss the Tour de France.”
Allan Peiper (Garmin-Sharp): “Andrew Talansky has just won the Tour de l’Ain, so we’ll ride for him without knowing where he can finish on GC. He came second at the Tour de Romandie, only 16 sec. behind Bradley Wiggins but that was only a one-week stage race and he’s still young .”
Valerio Piva (Katusha): “As usual it will be a very hard Vuelta. Especially the uphill finishes, concentrated in the last week, will be crucial. I think we have a very balanced team: the leader will be Joaquin Rodriguez, just like in the Giro d’Italia, with Denis Menchov and Dani Moreno to support him. Smukulis and Ignatyev will help us not to lose too much time during the team time trial and can do a great job leading the group during some stages, just like Brutt, Florencio and Vicioso during flat or middle mountain stages. Losada, instead, will help ‘Purito’ [Rodriguez] in high mountain stages, just like Denis and Dani. Our goal is obviously the overall standings.”
Roberto Damiani (Lampre-ISD): "We’ve planned at the beginning of the season that Damiano Cunego would ride the Vuelta to gear up for the world championship. That’s our unique project. Technical commissaire Paolo Bettini will make his decision but we do everything for Damiano to be at his best in Valkenburg. He’ll go for stages without thinking about GC. We also have a very good young Colombian rider: Winner Anacona. He hasn’t raced a lot but we’re curious to see him riding at this level.”
Dario Mariuzzo (Liquigas-Cannondale): “Our goal is to maintain Eros Capecchi in the top ten. Elia Viviani will possibly go for the sprints, then we have other riders who are for experience and that will come from attacking.”
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx (Lotto-Belisol): “Like every other team, we want to win a stage. Jurgen Van den Broeck and Gianni Meersman are our men for that. Stage 3 at Eibar will give an indication about Jurgen’s position and we’ll decide our strategy after that. If he’s high, we’ll work for him but firstly, we’ll try and win a stage. He was tired at the end of the Tour but he has recovered well and he seems motivated.”
Jose Luis Arrieta (Movistar): “Defending champion Juan José Cobo wants to finish as high as he can on GC. Why not winning but it’ll be difficult with Alberto Contador being the hot favourite and still the best rider in the world for stage races. Alejandro Valverde hadn’t planned to do the Vuelta but he feels good. At the Tour, he has won a stage but he also had a lot of bad luck in the first week. He’s highly motivated.”
Neil Stephens (Orica-GreenEdge): “We want to be competitive in stages with all of our riders. We have no great star here but a truly competitive team. Like at the majority of the stage races this year, we don’t have any goal for GC but we’ll give Cameron Meyer a chance to go for it.”
Davide Bramati (Omega Pharma-Quick Step): “We’ll look for stage wins mostly and we’ll give Kevin de Weert a possibility to target GC. He has worked so much for the other riders at the Tour de France this year that he deserves to be trusted in a Grand Tour after finishing thirteenth at the Tour de France last year. Gert Steegmans has noticed that there aren’t many top sprinters at the Vuelta. In a good day, he can win a stage.”
Adrie Van Houwelingen (Rabobank): “We want to win a stage as soon as possible for everyone’s morale. On GC, we count on Bauke Mollema who finished fourth last year and Robert Gesink. They’ve both abandoned the Tour de France and they want a revenge.”
Jose Azevedo (RadioShack-Nissan): “We want to make the top 10 overall. It should be with Maxime Monfort who finished sixth at the 2011 Vuelta. He can do it again. But Linus Gerdemann and Tiago Machado are also able to do it. We’ll target stage wins with our fast men Daniele Bennati and Jan Bakelants. The teams’ classification can’t be a priority anymore. To win it against Katusha and Sky, our three protected riders have to be all at their best level.”
Bjarne Riis (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank): “Benjamin Noval, Nicki Sorensen and Matteo Tosatto will protect him [Contador] on the flat. Sergio Paulinho and Bruno Pires will prepare the terrain before the mountains. Dani Navarro, Jesus Hernandez and Rafal Majka will be on his side in the climbs. The team is strong and well prepared to support Alberto. Our goal is to win the Vuelta. The parcours will make a lot more aggressive racing than at the Tour de France.”
Nicolas Portal (Sky): “We want to win the Vuelta. Chris [Froome] is super motivated and he looks in good shape. We have a good feedback about his recovery. We’ll ride with no pressure though. Chris has already done an excellent Tour de France. Our back-up riders are also going well: Richie [Porte], Sergio [Henao], Rigoberto [Uran)… Everyone is extremely happy to help Chris.”
Hilaire Van der Schueren (Vacansoleil-DCM): “We want to win a stage and see how Thomas De Gendt is. For now, his condition is not extraordinary. At the Giro, he went better and better but here, there are serious climbs already in the third and fourth day. I’ve got doubts about his possibilities to do well. We don’t have any sprinter here but we’ll try and win hard stages.”
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.