Contador’s backup named for Vuelta a España: how well can Spaniard do?

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Wednesday’s pronouncement by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that Roman Kreuziger’s provisional suspension by the UCI would not be overturned closed the door on the Czech rider’s participation in the Vuelta a España.

With that variable now made clearer, his Tinkoff Saxo team has finalised the list of nine riders for the race, naming the eight who will support Alberto Contador’s bid for the best possible result.

The Spaniard, who has recovered sufficiently from a fractured tibia to take part, will be joined by Chris Anker Sørensen, Daniele Bennati, Matteo Tosatto, Sergio Paulinho, Oliver Zaugg, Ivan Rovny, Jesus Hernandez and Danish national champion Michael Valgren.

“With Alberto we have the chance to compete on a high level in the high mountain stage finishes and on the medium mountain stages,” said directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit. “Alberto crashed and broke his leg during the Tour. I’m not sure if it’s plausible to aim for the overall win after only a few weeks of hard training in the mountains but we’ll flash the jersey in the race and you will notice us.”

Contador originally dismissed any thoughts of doing the Vuelta but, following reports that he was back training earlier than had been disclosed, his team confirmed that he would indeed take part.

The double Vuelta winner confirmed then that he would aim for a stage win in the final week but it seems likely that his private ambitions are higher than that.

It remains to be seen if he can challenge for the general classification. He will be up against two other former Tour de France winners, namely Chris Froome and Cadel Evans, as well as last year’s Vuelta champion Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), past victor Alejandro Valverde, 2014 Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana (both Movistar), former world number one Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and 2014 Tour podium finisher Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

Others who could fight for high overall finishes include 2013 double stage victor Warren Barguill (Giant Shimano), Critérium du Dauphiné champion Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and Dan Martin (all Garmin Sharp), climbing specialists Mikel Nieve (Sky), Samuel Sa?nchez (BMC Racing Team), Rigoberto Ura?n (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Fabio Aru (Astana), Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing), Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) and Robert Gesink (Belkin Pro Cycling Team).

The race will include 40 climbs spread over 13 medium to high mountain stages, and will also include a team time trial on the opening day plus two individual TT’s. It’s a course which could suit Contador very well if his fitness is there, and Mauduit is looking forward to seeing how things play out.

“It’s going to be a special race for us. Just like the last part of the Tour de France, we’ll take one stage at a time,” he said.

“Our line-up offers a number of opportunities. In the more flat terrain, we have a series of riders who will be able to nail the stage win that we are targeting in this year’s edition of the Vuelta.”

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