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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

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Teams preview the Vuelta a España

Here's the post from last year's winner Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

The last Grand Tour of the season is just a few days away, and Barcelona – the city of Antoni Gaudi and his fantastic works inspired by nature – will host the start of the race for just the second time in history. Not a road stage, as was the case in 1962, but a team time trial will kick off proceedings this weekend, but its impact on the final outcome will be insignificant, and that’s because the three weeks will feature a total of ten uphill finishes.

Arinsal, Xorret de Cati, Javalambre, the mighty Col du Tourmalet, Larra-Belagua, Angliru and its brutal gradients, and Bejes are just some of the many hurdles the peloton will face on their road to Madrid. Add to these a 25km individual time trial in Valladolid and an insane up-and-down course on the penultimate day, and the overall picture is that of an incredibly hard edition of the Vuelta a España.

Remco Evenepoel after winning the 2022 Edition. Sirotti photo

Remco Evenepoel, who wrote history for Belgium and Soudal Quick-Step last year when he arrived in Madrid with the prestigious red jersey in his possession, is back at the start, his confidence buoyed by a spectacular season that has seen him win, among others, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, Clasica San Sebastian and the ITT World Championships.

“It will be quite special to return at La Vuelta with bib number one on my back and the beautiful Belgian Champion jersey on my shoulders, in what will be my first outing since conquering it in late June.”

“Spain is one of my favourite countries, I’ve always felt good and had a lot of success there, and hopefully the trend will continue over the next weeks. If you look over the course and the start list, you can see it’s going to be a very tough race, but I had a good preparation and can rely on a strong squad, so I have a lot of confidence and motivation ahead of the many challenges that will come”, explained the fourth-youngest rider to win the Spanish Grand Tour.

The reigning champion – who sits on ten victories since the start of the year – will be joined in Barcelona by a solid Soudal Quick-Step squad consisting of Andrea Bagioli, Mattia Cattaneo, Jan Hirt, James Knox, Casper Pedersen, Pieter Serry and Louis Vervaeke.

“We have a well-balanced team for this last Grand Tour of the year, comprising strong guys for the climbs, but also riders who can protect Remco on the flat and put him in a good position ahead of the climbs. We hope to have a good start in Barcelona, then we will continue taking it day by day and see how things pan out, especially as after the first couple of stages we will know more about our form and that of our opponents. We are motivated and looking forward to what we hope will be three strong weeks in Spain”, said sports director Klaas Lodewyck.

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Here's the Vuelta news from Team Lotto Dstny:

Lotto Dstny goes to the Vuelta with a combative, balanced group. Andreas Kron, Lennert Van Eetvelt, Jarrad Drizners, Thomas De Gendt, Sylvain Moniquet, Eduardo Sepulveda, Sébastien Grignard and Milan Menten are the riders that will represent Lotto Dstny at the 2023 Vuelta a España. The Belgian team targets a stage victory.

"I think we have a strong, balanced team for this last Grand Tour of the season," says sports manager Kurt Van de Wouwer. "We do not have one specific leader, which offers opportunities to everyone in the team. In the latest Tour de France we showed our fighting spirit almost every day and we ended with Victor Campenaerts on the podium in Paris as Super Combatif. Just like in France, we want to show our stripes every day in Spain."

Thomas De Gendt descending in the 2018 Vuelta. Sirotti photo

The team mixes experience with youth. Thomas De Gendt will start in his 24th Grand Tour and has good memories of the Spanish race with a stage victory in 2017 and the KOM jersey in 2018. We have three grand tour debutants in this Vuelta: Sébastien Grignard, Milan Menten and Lennert Van Eetvelt. “At 22 years old, Van Eetvelt is the youngster of the pack”, says Van de Wouwer, “Lennert already showed himself this year and took his first professional victory in the Sibiu Tour. He can now have a taste of a Grand Tour for the first time and starts without any pressure. Milan is our fast man in this team and we hope to see him in the mix in the sprint stages. He can rely on the support of Jarrad Drizners.”

Andreas Kron, Eduardo Sepulveda, Sylvain Moniquet can use their climbing talents in the many hilly stages of this Vuelta. “Eduardo has shown his good form with a stage victory and the final classification in the Vuelta Castilla y Léon,” Van de Wouwer concludes, “We also expect a few things from Andreas Kron and Sylvain Moniquet in the more difficult stages.”

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Here's the Vuelta news from Team dsm-firmenich:

The battles for pink and yellow have come and gone, now the peloton will duke it out over 21 challenging days of racing; fighting over steep mountains, full-gas flat stages and efforts against the clock as they battle for the Maillot Rojo and more, at the last Grand Tour showdown – the Vuelta a España.

Team dsm-firmenich rider Romain Bardet at the Tour teams presentation. Sirotti photo

Known for its interesting and unique stage design, this year’s edition of La Vuelta is no different and provides a variety of terrain where everyone in the peloton should find something to their liking. Kicking off with a team time trial in Barcelona, mountain finishes on stages three and five should already set the GC battle alight, while the rest of the first week should see the sprinters or escape artists rewarded. Heading into week two a test against the clock once again sees the peloton return to action before a mixed bag of terrain, including a brutal looking stage 13 which features roughly 4000 metres of climbing and a finish on the Col du Tourmalet packed into 135 kilometres. Continuing to make its way across the northern part of the country before heading southwards, the action should be hot until the very end at the final stage into the capital of Madrid.

Team dsm-firmenich head to the start line in Barcelona, adorned in their distinctive two-striped jersey and ready to get stuck into what should be an exciting 21 days of racing.

Team dsm-firmenich coach Phil West expressed: “We’re looking forward to starting the final Grand Tour of the year at the Vuelta a España. We have a nice balance of experience in our line-up with four of our guys making their three-week debut which will be an important step in their development. Sportive wise, our main goal will be to search for our opportunities over the 21 days, hunting for stage results on the mixed terrain; with chances in the mountains and hilly days for our climbers, while our rouleurs will play their cards on the rolling terrain, and of course we have the sprints as well. With our line-up we are also looking to the future with our young GC talents; using it as an opportunity to learn from our more experienced riders on how to ride GC in a three-week race, which will be an invaluable experience for the coming years. As for the route, there is something for everyone throughout the three weeks with sprint stages, hilly breakaway days, and challenging days in the mountains with some famous and brutally tough climbs. As a team, we are really motivated after some nice team camps and good recent racing, and we’re excited to pin on our numbers again in Barcelona.”

Romain Bardet (FRA)
Romain Combaud (FRA)
Alberto Dainese (ITA)
Sean Flynn (GBR)
Chris Hamilton (AUS)
Lorenzo Milesi (ITA)
Oscar Onley (GBR)
Max Poole (GBR)

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And here's the Vuelta preview from Team Jayco AlUla:

Team Jayco AlUla have announced a young and hungry squad for the final Grand Tour of the season, La Vuelta a España, starting on Saturday 26th August in Barcelona.

Irishman Eddie Dunbar and Giro d’Italia stage winners Filippo Zana and Matteo Sobrero will headline the Australian squad across the three weeks of racing, with the trio supported by an exciting mixture of youth and experience.

Edward Dunbar finishes 2023 Giro stage 19. Sirotti photo

Ready For More
Leading the team’s general classification fight will be Dunbar, with the 26-year-old keen to build on his seventh-place finish at this year’s Giro d’Italia, in what was his first Grand Tour as a team leader.

Tour of Slovenia winner Zana and recent Tour of Austria stage winner Sobrero will both be key support riders for Dunbar throughout the Spanish tour, but the pair will also be free to chase their own opportunities and hunt for stage victories.

Australian duo Michael Hepburn and Callum Scotson will add experience and horsepower to the eight-man squad, with both riders lining up for their second Grand Tour of the year after starting the Giro back in May.

Eddie Dunbar:
“My training has been going good after Poland and I’ve been putting in a few finishing touches to my training and I’m looking forward to getting started in Barcelona.

"The course is fairly difficult this year, I think on paper there can be 13 ‘GC days’, so it’s going to be intense all three weeks and you’re going to have to be switched on all the time. The stages look a bit shorter than the Giro, but like I said, I think it will be more intense racing with steeper climbs. The Tourmalet and L’Angliru will be decisive stages and it will be important to be ‘on it’ during those days.

"It looks like a stacked GC field, it almost looks like the Tour de France, and it will be interesting to see how it is raced. I’ve only ever watched the Vuelta on TV, but it’s going to be a different race to the Giro I expect.

"For me it’s just about going in and doing our best like we did at the Giro and we have a good squad to do that. The aim is to be there or thereabouts in the GC again, in the Giro it went pretty good, I was up there on the hard stages and if we can repeat that at the Vuelta and finish off a bit stronger, I think a good GC result can be on the cards for sure.”

Grand Tour Debuts
The team will hand Grand Tour debuts to three riders, with Hagos Welay Berhe, Felix Engelhardt and Jan Maas all lining up for their first taste of a three-week tour. German Engelhardt and Ethiopian Berhe have already shown their potential in their first year as professionals with a host of standout performances to underline their raw abilities.

Dutchman Maas will be a valuable teammate across the 21 stages, with the 27-year-old set to play an important role in protecting the team leaders on both the flat and in the mountains.

Tough Start, Tougher Finish
The 2023 edition kicks off with a fast and intriguing team time trial around the streets of Barcelona that has the possibility to shake up the general classification contenders on the opening day. In true La Vuelta style, there is no easing into the race with only one classified ‘flat stage’ and three summit finishes before the first rest day as the peloton head to Andorra on day three to tackle the first summit finish.

There is no respite as action resumes on stage 10 with a time trial, before the race dips into France to take on the famous Col du Tourmalet on stage 13. More historic climbs await in the final week of racing with three testing stages in Asturias, including a summit finish of the formidable Altu de L'Angliru before the peloton eventually reaches the finale in Madrid.

Pieter Weening (Sport Director):
“Our goal is to go for a strong general classification result with Eddie and for the rest of the guys we will look to send them up the road whenever there is an opportunity and we will look to give everyone a chance.

"Already on stage three we have a mountain-top finish, so after three days of racing there will be a GC established and guys who are already minutes behind, so that gives a lot of riders, including our guys a lot of opportunities to go up the road. We will look to gamble on those days when the breakaway can stay away and those riders who don’t make the break will have the job of looking after and helping Eddie.

"I would say the hardest part of this Vuelta is the last eight or nine days. If you want to do a good GC it will all depend on how fresh you are in those last eight or nine stages.”

Team Jayco AlUla at La Vuelta a España:
Hagos Welay Berhe – (ETH) Debut appearance
Eddie Dunbar – (IRE) Debut appearance
Felix Engelhardt – (GER) Debut appearance
Michael Hepburn – (AUS) 2nd appearance
Jan Maas – (NED) Debut appearance
Callum Scotson – (AUS) 3rd appearance
Matteo Sobrero – (ITA) Debut appearance
Filippo Zana – (ITA) Debut appearance

Team Jayco AlUla La Vuelta a España Stats:
Youngest rider: Hagos Welay Berhe (21)
Oldest rider: Michael Hepburn (31)
Average age: 25.5
La Vuelta a España Debutants: 5
Most La Vuelta a España Appearances: Callum Scotson (2x)
Total La Vuelta a España Appearances: 5

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