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Sharing a total of seven Vuelta a España stage wins between them, John Degenkolb and Warren Barguil will be a major part of the Giant Shimano team’s push for success in the Vuelta a España.
Degenkolb won stages two, five, seven, 10 and 21 during the 2012 Vuelta a España, and also picked up a Giro stage win the following year. He will represent the team’s main sprinting hopes in this year’s race and wants to try to return to the success of before.
“I’m really motivated for the Vuelta and have prepared well for it. The week after the Tour I did some criteriums before taking some holiday, then starting training again,” he said.
“We started with long rides then built up the intensity. Restarting after five days off feels very strange but everyday I have felt my shape getting better.”
In addition to trying to land victories himself, he also sees an additional role for himself. “Together with Johannes [Fröhlinger] and Koen [De Kort] I can help to bring experience to the younger guys in the team here and help them to develop. Not just with bottles and positioning but also on what breaks to go with and tips outside of the race too.
“We have a strong team here and should have a good race.”
Barguil had a superb Vuelta debut last year, winning stage 13 and 16. Still just 22 years of age, he is a very promising talent and one of the best French riders. Providing he is in the same form as twelve months ago, he should be in the hunt again and said he is fired up to do what he can.
“I head to the Vuelta really motivated to try for a good result overall,” he stated. “Together with the team I have worked towards being in the best shape possible through both my race program and my training in the approach to this race.
“We have a strong team here to challenge for both stages and a good overall performance. I hope that I can continue to progress and prove myself.”
German rider Nikias Arndt is another who believes in his chances. He was fourth on stage five in 2013 and then took a superb third place on the final sprint into Madrid.
“If I look back to last year’s Vuelta I know that I have taken a step forward and am at a higher level,” he said, thinking of his stage win in this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. “I am looking forward to racing again for three weeks and continuing to progress and racing to get the best results we can as a team.
“I have been looking forward to this race for a while, and I think that we have a good team here.”
He and the others on the team did a high altitude camp for three weeks in France and then raced in the Tour de Pologne. He was eighth on a stage there and while he will hope to be much closer to a win than that in the Vuelta, took encouragement from how his legs were feeling.
“I already felt strong racing there and have continued to build for this race,” he said. “The progress I have made in getting over the climbs should help me in being present on the harder stages to help John or even to take my own opportunities if the situation arises.”
American rider Chad Haga is set to make his Grand Tour debut and while he’ll undoubtedly be nervous at that, he’s also very motivated.
“Selection for a Grand Tour is confirmation that my hard work is paying off and of the team’s plan for my long-term development,” he said.
“The racing and training programme has helped me to progress through the hardest season I have ever experienced, now the Vuelta is the real test. I am really excited.”
He sees his first goal as being to finish the race. He wants more than that, though. “Beyond that I want to do everything possible to help the team achieve its goals, as well as targeting a strong result in the time trials.”
The Vuelta a España begins Saturday with a 12.6 kilometre team time trial in Jerez de la Frontera.