Last of the 2012 Grand Tours: The Vuelta
The Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Olympic Road Race are all done and dusted. This leaves us with just the World Champs and Vuelta a Espana to go.
The 67th Vuelta a Espana kicks off in Pamplona on Saturday the 18th August with 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,300 kilometres. The race will end, as tradition dictates, on 9th September in Madrid.
The defending champion is Juan Jose Cobo, now riding for the Spanish based Movistar team. Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky finished second and third respectively in 2011.
Cobo and Froome will be the team leaders for their respective teams. Wiggins is having a deserved break and based on recent tweets is doing a ‘Tour de Pub’ through London – as any of us would be.
The majority of the big names will not be at the 2012 Vuelta. This is often the case given most top level riders focus on the TDF and then the Worlds – which take place in the Netherlands between 15 and 23 September 2012.
I would have Cobo and Froome as my pre-race favourites but big hitting ‘El Pistolero’ (Alberto Contador) is back from his suspension and will be the red hot favourite.
Regardless of what you think of Contador as a person and the recent Clenbuterol dramas, the guy is the best climber of his generation and is a one man wrecking ball in the mountains. His out of the saddle, up tempo attacking style would have caused Sky a lot of problems at the 2012 TDF.
Contador is extremely exciting to watch as no matter what his position is in the GC classification, his mindset is to attack the climbs – he is not a rider you see on the defensive very often.
Contador rides much like Voeckler, who provided some of the most enjoyable moments in the mountains at this year’s TDF.
Contador, who has re-signed with Saxo until 2015, has been spotted on numerous occasions riding some of the key stages ahead of the race and Saxo Bank will be looking to gain maximum points out of the race after a very lean year thus far. Contador won the race back in 2009 when he was with Astana and he will be highly motivated to return to his winning ways.
Saxo team owner and manager Bjarne Riis has been in contact with Contador several times a week, being updated on his training.
“[Contador] has looked at all the stages, and we’ve already talked a little about them. Soon he will have the route book in his hand, and we get to see who will start the race, and then we can really prepare. But it’s actually fairly simple, for he must win,” said Riis.
The final plans will be made at Eneco. “When we get down there, we will put the Vuelta strategy together. We will look at how we should ride the various stages, and then take it day by day when it starts.”
Contador has been concentrating on his training and therefore given no interviews lately.
Saxo are close to resigning Chris Anker Sörensen who was awarded the most combative rider at the 2012 TDF and finished 14th overall after crushing his fingers in his wheel on stage 17 trying to remove some newspaper.
Sörensen was regularly seen attacking in the mountains and trying to break away. Sörensen is listed as a reserve but it was confirmed on the 2nd August that he would not require surgery and is a strong chance to start the Vuelta with Contador. I expect these guys to really push one another.
The combination of Sörensen and Contador at the 2013 TDF will hopefully be something to watch. Sky did an excellent job or controlling the attacks in the 2012 TDF but I am not convinced that they could have handled Contador who will attack day in day out.
Given Sörensen’s mindset Saxo will have two strong climbers that are excellent at pushing the tempo right up. Froome was able to respond to a lot of attacks but Sky did not have to deal with Contador dropping the hammer at every chance he gets.
Throw Andy Schlek, who has not recovered from his injury and will not start the Vuelta, into the mix and there are enough riders to really create some havoc in the mountains next year at the TDF.
It is also unclear whether Froome will stay at Sky. With Nibali moving from Liquigas-Cannondale to Astana they are likely to have the budget to accommodate him.
Orica-GreenEDGE is another contender for Froome but at this point they really don’t have the right team to support him and their focus appears to be on developing the likes of Cameron Meyer into a GC rider – which I think is an excellent decision.
Orica-GreenEDGE start team is:
1 CLARKE Simon (AUS)
2 DAVIS Allan (AUS)
3 DEAN Julian (NZL)
4 DOCKER Mitchell (AUS)
5 MEYER Cameron (AUS)
6 MEYER Travis (AUS)
7 SULZBERGER Wesley (AUS)
8 TEKLEHAYMANOT Daniel (ERI)
9 WEENING Pieter (NED)
Meyer (24) has been touted as a Grand Tour prospect for some time and this will be his first Grand Tour. Meyer has an amazing list of achievements on the track and is a World Champion in multiple disciplines on the track. His biggest achievement on the road was 1st at the 2011 Tour Down Under.
Team manager Matt White has not come out and advised what the teams goals are for the Vuelta but given the make-up of the team it appears as though building guys up for grand tour events is the overall objective.
I expect the team will look for a couple of stage wins. Cameron Meyer has the engine to get into breaks and I am certain they will look to try and win a couple of stages but this race for the team is all about development. Orica-GreenEDGE are a team that are, at this point, focused on stage wins.
To date 2012 has been a very successful year for the team so a stage win at the Vuelta will be icing on the cake. a Stage win at the TDF was a stretch to far but that gives the team a nice goal to achieve in 2013.
Keep an eye on Mitch Docker as well. Mitch is a strong classics rider having finished in the top 20 in Paris-Roubaix in 2011. Unfortunately his 2012 season was hampered by a serious crash during a training camp in falls creek in January.
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