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Without the Australian, the Bahrain-Victorious team will bring a mixed team of stage-hunters and GC riders anchored by Mikel Landa and Gino Mäder, who won the best young rider prize and finished fifth overall last year.
“For the GC, we have Mikel. Let’s see how his condition is,” said sport director Franco Pellizotti. “With Gino Mäder as co-leader, we have a strong squad for all terrains. We’re looking to do a good TTT, and have three good stages in Holland, so we arrive in Spain without time gaps.”
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Landa starts the Vuelta for the sixth time. He finished on the podium at this year’s Giro d’Italia and was a stage winner at La Vuelta in 2015.
Mäder, who won a stage in the 2021 Giro, hit second at the Tour de Romandie earlier this season but was zapped by COVID-19 and missed out on a possible Tour start. After his strong showing at last year’s Vuelta, he will also see leadership protection.
Last year, Bahrain-Victorious enjoyed its best grand tour in years, also winning the team classification in addition to Haig’s podium, Mäder’s white jersey, and a stage win with Damiano Caruso.
The team was at the center of a series of police raids before the start of the 2022 Tour, but so far, no charges or any formal action has taken place since then.
For 2022, Pellizotti said other riders such as Santiago Buitrago and Fred Wright will also see their chances.
“When we get to Spain, the ‘real’ Vuelta begins, with the first week in the Basque Country, and the stages are demanding straight away,” Pellizotti said. “We’ll hope to have some fun on the breakaway days with Santiago, who’s in great shape, and with Fred on the stages that suit him.”
Riders such as Italian youngster Edoardo Zambanini, Jasha Sütterlin, Wout Poels, and Luis León Sánchez round out the squad.
“I think we have a great team for this parcours, and I’m convinced we can get a good result on GC. And in individual stages, we have lots of cards to play,” Pellizotti said.