Madrid: UAE Team Emirates will head into this year’s Vuelta — which begins on Saturday — full of confidence and buoyed by their recent successes in the Tour de France.
The team will be led by Fabio Aru, who has a long standing affection for the Spanish Grand Tour and favours the parcours in the 2018 edition. He will be joined by fellow countrymen Valerio Conti, Simone Consonni, Edward Ravasi and Simone Petlli, in addition to the Norwegian duo of Sven Erik Bystrom and newly crowned National Road Race Champion, Vegard Stake Laengen.
Completing the eight person line up will be Irishman Dan Martin, who returns to racing after a landmark Tour de France that saw him win a stage, finish eighth in the General Classification and be presented with the most aggressive rider award on the Champs Elysees.
Team leader Aru said: “I really like the Vuelta for many reasons: the route, the climbs and especially the fans who have always shown great affection towards me. I approach it with great enthusiasm and a desire to do well, also to repay the affection and support shown to me by the team, the sponsors and the fans since the Giro d’Italia. I arrive from the first part of the season in which I did not get the results I was looking for, but from the defeats you can learn important lessons and all this gives me great motivation. It will be a tactically open Vuelta, the nine summit finishes will lend themselves to attacks. And I must beware of short stages, they will have a big impact on the general classification. The competition is spread wide and level; Lopez, the Yates brothers, Urán and the captains of Movistar … without forgetting that Nibali is also making his race return.”
Commenting on the upcoming race, Team manager Joxean Matxin said: “We will have the chance to aim for outstanding results with high-calibre and experienced riders and, at the same time, to help give some a step-up in their careers. Aru will be our man for the GC, in addition we will be able to count on Daniel Martin, back from an excellent Tour de France and looking for more good results in some stage finishes particularly suited to him. Consonni will have the opportunity to show his talent in the sprints. And Petilli and Ravasi will have the responsibility of supporting Aru and Martin the best they can on the climbs, in addition to Conti. I also think the contribution of the Norwegian duo Laengen and Bystrøm will offer a well-rounded, robust team. Among other things, Bystrøm won the 2014 world championships as an Under 23 in Spain.”
Similar to this year’s Giro d’Italia, the opening stage of the Vuelta will see riders tackle a short 8 kilometre Individual Time Trial that should not separate too many of the main GC contenders. From there on, it’s straight into the grit of the mountains, with stage two being the first of nine summit finishes at this year’s race. Three of the summit finishes are new to the Vuelta and will provide testing conditions for the riders, especially given temperatures are expected to exceed 30 degrees Celsius on most of the early stages.
Following the first rest day on September 3, riders will go up against a series of rolling hills and the longest stage of this year’s race — the 208km Stage 11 route from Provincia de Zamora — Ribeira Sacra. The mountains come thick and fast thereafter, with three consecutive summit finishes before the second rest day commences on 10 September, followed by the second ITT on Stage 16. Riders will be anticipating a brutal trip through the north as they make their way towards Andorra and arguably the toughest stage of the entire race — Stage 20; a summit finish at Collada de La Gallina that sees riders battle more than 1,000m of climbing for over 13km.
The final stage is set to be a procession in the Spanish capital, Madrid where the red jersey winner will be crowned.