Valverde, Uran among worlds favorites converging on Vuelta

With GC and stage-win aspirations, a number of top favorites for the world championships are headed to Spain in late August

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LEON, Spain (VN) — Already boasting an impressive list of overall contenders, the Vuelta a España is also seeing many of the favorites for the world championships converging on Spain.

Vuelta officials confirmed Monday that such riders as Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Samuel Sánchez and Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Ivan Basso (Cannondale) are among the riders who will be fighting for the red leader’s jersey throughout the Vuelta, Aug. 24 to Sept. 15.

Other confirmed starters include riders who will be honing their form during the Vuelta for the hilly road race world championship, set for Sept. 29 in Florence, Italy.

Among them are defending world champ Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Liège–Bastogne–Liège winner Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp), world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 2008 Olympic gold medalist Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), and multiple-time Tour de France stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky).

“I believe the winner of the worlds will be a climber who comes out of the Vuelta,” Rodríguez said in an interview with the Periodic de Andorra. “I have a lot of motivation for the worlds because it’s very hard, at 270 kilometers, with 5,000 meters of climbing, with a hill some 3km from the finish at 15 percent for 800 meters. It will cause a lot of pain.”

Since moving to September in the racing schedule in 1995, the Vuelta has become an important training ground for the worlds. With a mountainous Vuelta ahead of a hilly worlds route, that will be especially true this year. In fact, every world champion since Oscar Freire won his second of three titles in 2000 has raced at least part of the Vuelta.

Other newly confirmed starters, such as Amstel Gold Race winner Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), 2010 Giro d’Italia champion Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), recent Tour revelations Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin), and explosive, young Colombians Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao (Sky), will likely start with one eye on winning stages and another on preparing for the worlds.

The Vuelta will start with 22 teams, including the 19 WorldTour teams and three wildcard invitations: NetApp-Endura, Cofidis, and Caja Rural.

A few big names are missing, including Chris Froome (Sky) and defending champion Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff). Worlds favorite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and time trial challenger Bradley Wiggins (Sky) are both steering clear of the Vuelta. Sagan and Froome will instead ride the high-altitude USA Pro Challenge in Colorado in August.

The Vuelta opens with five stages in Galicia in northwest Spain, before looping south through Andalusia, then swinging north into Catalunya and Andorra. The final week tackles the feared climb at Angliru on the penultimate stage before ending in Madrid.

The race for rainbow stripes will continue on for two weeks afterward, when the world champion is crowned after 10 climbs of the 4.5km, 6-percent ramp to Fiesole.

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