Vuelta a España ticker: Illness forces UAE to make roster change, Arkéa-Samsic switches kits, Dunbar eyes Giro repeat

Follow all the pre-race news ahead of the opening Barcelona team time trial on Saturday 26.

Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

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Illness forces UAE Team Emirates to make roster change

With days before the Vuelta a España is set to depart from Barcelona, UAE Team Emirates has been forced to make a swap in their line-up.

Ivo Oliveira won’t be on the roster for the Spanish grand tour and he has been replaced by Domen Novak. The race was to be Oliveira’s third Vuelta and third grand tour. Novak recently raced at the Vuelta a Burgos, where his teammate Adam Yates finished third overall.

UAE Team Emirates is hunting for GC success again at this year’s race with João Almeida and Juan Ayuso co-leading the team.

Arkéa-Samsic switches kits

Arkéa-Samsic will ride in a switchout kit at the Vuelta a España.

The French team is bringing back the flouro look it raced with last year in Spain. The change from the team’s trademark red prevents a clash with the Vuelta’s maillot rojo and highlights issues around road safety.

“Sharing of traffic lanes between motorists and cyclists is a major issue in our society,” said team manger Emmanuel Hubert.

“We are proud, as a professional cycling team, Arkéa-Samsic, to be wearing these highly identifiable fluorescent yellow shawls, signs of visibility on the road and which corroborate the message of the ‘road is shared’, ‘I overtake, I move aside, 1 meter 50’, once again on the occasion of the three weeks of the Vuelta a España, the perfect stage for an international exhibition on an important subject: respect for the health of all cyclists. ”


Eddie Dunbar looks for Giro d’Italia repeat in classification quest

Eddie Dunbar is looking to back up his sensational ride to 7th overall at the Giro d’Italia as he captains Jayco-AlUla into the Vuelta.

The Irishman climbed with the best in Italy this summer in what was his first grand tour in four years. After a strong ride through Tour of Poland, the star climber is looking to roll his momentum into Spain.

“The stages look a bit shorter than the Giro, but 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,” Dunbar said.

“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.”

Dunbar will be backed by a young team that includes three grand tour rookies Hagos Welay Berhe, Felix Engelhardt, and Jan Maas.

Callum Scotson, Michael Hepburn, and Filipo Zana all supported Dunbar at the Giro d’Italia and will bring the experience when they return to domestique duty in the coming month.

“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,” Dunbar said.

“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.”

Jayco-AlUla to 2023 Vuelta a España:

  • Hagos Welay Berhe
  • Eddie Dunbar
  • Felix Engelhardt
  • Michael Hepburn
  • Jan Maas
  • Callum Scotson
  • Matteo Sobrero
  • Filippo Zana

DSM-Firmenich hunts stages with Romain Bardet and the rookies

20-year-old Brit Oscar Onley is touted for big things.

Romain Bardet is joined by four grand tour rookies on DSM-Firmenich’s Vuelta team.

Rising talents Oscar Onley, Max Poole, Lorenzo Milesi, and Sean Flynn will all make their three-week debuts when they roll down the start ramp Saturday.

Bardet crashed out while riding high on GC at the Tour de France last month. Rather than riding for a classification placing, the French ace will lead the team on its quest to harvest stage wins across all terrain.

“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,” said team coach Phil West.

The 20-year-old pair Onley and Poole have both been touted for big things after strong rides in their debut WordTour season. The two Brits are DSM’s longest-signed riders, and with contracts through 2027, represent the team’s future.

“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,” West said.

DSM-Firmenich to 2023 Giro d’Italia:

  • Romain Bardet
  • Romain Combaud
  • Alberto Dainese
  • Sean Flynn
  • Chris Hamilton
  • Lorenzo Milesi
  • Oscar Onley
  • Max Poole

UAE Team Emirates with Almeida, Ayuso: ‘We had two on the podium at the Tour, so why not at the Vuelta too?’

Spanish sensation Ayuso climbed to third overall on his grand tour debut last year. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

UAE Team Emirates is looking to its twin attack of João Almeida and Juan Ayuso to halt Jumbo-Visma’s march through the season’s grand tours.

Ayuso and Almeida will be backed by ace climbers Marc Soler and Jay Vine in their mission to take two of the steps of the Vuelta’s final podium in Madrid.

Almeida earned his first grand tour podium finish this spring at the Giro d’Italia, and after finishing second at the recent Tour of Poland, is looking to roll the momentum into Spain.

“The sensations are good: I feel I’m stronger than I was this time last year,” Almeida said.

“I think Juan has also improved so we’re in a really good place. Last year at the Vuelta was already quite a success for us so we’re going back to aim for the same or more.

“We had two guys on the podium at the Tour [Pogačar and Yates – ed] so why not at the Vuelta too? It could be really nice.”

Tongues are wagging through Spain at what Ayuso could achieve.

The 20-year-old finished third on his grand tour debut at last year’s Vuelta and is seen by some as the answer to the Pogačar-Vingegaard-Evenepoel lockdown on GC racing.

“It’s going to be tough no doubt with some big rivals on the start list but I feel we’re up to the challenge. Going in like we did last year with two leaders worked out as an advantage so I think it’s a good strategy,” Ayuso said.

“We can’t wait to get the racing started.”

UAE Emirates to 2023 Vuelta a España

  • João Almeida
  • Juan Ayuso
  • Finn Fisher-Black
  • Sebastian Molano
  • Ivo Oliveira
  • Rui Oliveira
  • Marc Soler
  • Jay Vine

Remco Evenepoel brings ‘a lot of confidence and motivation’ to title defense

(Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Remco Evenepoel is without a key Soudal Quick Step climber but full of “confidence and motivation” for his Vuelta a España defense.

Ilan van Wilder featured highly in Evenepoel’s Vuelta victory last season and rode alongside his captain through the Ardennes classics and Giro d’Italia, but won’t take the start in Barcelona on Saturday.

Evenepoel will instead be calling on the likes of James Knox, Pieter Serry, and Louis Vervaeke for mountain support for his highly-anticipated showdown with Jumbo-Visma.

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

“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.”

Evenpoel exited this year’s Giro while wearing the pink jersey due to COVID, but has been on a tear since. He finished third at the Tour de Suisse and went on to win the Belgian national title, Clásica San Sebastián, and the world TT title.

“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,” sport director Klaas Lodewyck said.

“We are motivated and looking forward to what we hope will be three strong weeks in Spain.”

Soudal Quick-Step to 2023 Vuelta a España

  • Andrea Bagioli
  • Mattia Cattaneo
  • Remco Evenepoel
  • Jan Hirt
  • James Knox
  • Casper Phillip Pedersen
  • Pieter Serry
  • Louis Vervaeke

Enric Mas returns for Movistar after Tour de France crash

Enric Mas returns for Movistar. (Photo: Getty)

Enric Mas will lead Movistar into his fourth-straight Vuelta a España.

The Spaniard was left devastated after he crashed out of the opening stage of the Tour de France but is back in the saddle and on a mission to go one better than his second-place finishes at the Vueltas of 2018, 2021, and 2022.

Mas will be backed by rising climber Einer Rubio and some top stage-hunter domestiques for all terrain, including Iván García Cortina and Ruben Guerreiro.

Movistar to 2023 Vuelta a España

  • Enric Mas
  • Oier Lazkano
  • Einer Rubio
  • Nelson Oliveira
  • Ruben Guerreiro
  • Iván García Cortina
  • Jorge Arcas
  • Carlos Verona

Jumbo-Visma ‘ready for anything’ with super-eight

Jumbo-Visma confirmed a Vuelta selection that was every bit as strong as anticipated in its bid to claim a sweep of the season’s grand tours.

Giro d’Italia and Tour de France champions Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard will be backed by elite domestiques like Sepp Kuss, Wilco Kelderman, and Dylan van Baarle for the Spanish tour.

“It is an ambitious goal that we dare to declare and for which we can field a very versatile and strong eight-man squad in Spain. We are ready for anything with this team, and I look forward to starting in Barcelona with these riders,” team director Marc Reef said.

It seems Vingegaard and Roglič will let the racing dictate who takes the leader’s armband into the back half of the race. A tricky opening week littered with mountain and hilltop finals could dictate the hierarchy early.

“Vingegaard and Roglic will start the race both as our leaders. Roglic had an excellent preparation with a rest after the Giro and then altitude training followed by the Tour of Burgos,” Reef said. “Vingegaard took a break after winning the Tour but then started training again, and the signals we got from him are also very good. The big goal is for one of them to reach Madrid in the red jersey.”

Kuss has proven Jumbo-Visma’s lucky gem in its rise to the top of the WorldTour.

The Coloradan raced every grand tour the team won and is set to start his third three-weeker of the year after he finished the Tour de France covered in protective gauze.

Kelderman also raced the Tour, and will be a lead carriage in Jumbo-Visma’s mountain train.

“Kuss crashed in the final of the Tour de France, but he recovered quicker than expected,” Reef said. “After a period of rest, both Kuss and Kelderman have been able to resume training, and we think they are ready. Their role will be similar to their role in the Tour.”

Jumbo Visma to 2023 Vuelta a España

  • Jonas Vingegaard
  • Primoz Roglic
  • Sepp Kuss
  • Wilco Kelderman
  • Attila Valter
  • Jan Tratnik
  • Robert Gesink
  • Dylan van Baarle

Geraint Thomas motivated by deep starting field

Thomas, Roglič and Almeida reunite for a Giro re-run at the Vuelta. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Geraint Thomas will lead Ineos Grenadiers into an underdog bid at the Vuelta’s red jersey.

The Welsh veteran leads a team that includes Egan Bernal, Filippo Ganna, and Thymen Arensman in what will be just the second Vuelta of his long career.

Thomas doesn’t carry the hype of GC rivals Remco Evenepoel, Juan Ayuso, Primož Roglič, and Jonas Vingegaard, but that’s far from putting him off.

“It’s going to be a star-studded line-up. That’s what motivates you as well, knowing that all the best guys are going to be there, so the goal is to go and do your best and hopefully come out on top; but it’s certainly going to be tough,” Thomas said.

“The bigger the challenge the more excited you get and the more you want to put into it and try to do well. Having everyone there is going to make it a great race and the whole team we’ve got preparing for the Vuelta will get everyone up and motivated; we’re all looking forward to getting started.”

Thomas came close to victory at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year as Ineos Grenadiers hunts a first grand tour victory since 2021.

He’ll be backed in the mountains by top climbers Arensman and Laurens de Plus, both who finished in the top-10 of the Corsa Rosa this May.

“This is a very strong group of riders who are ready to take on this race. We start every grand tour hungry for the win, and I know every single rider is going to give everything for the team and each other,” team deputy principal Rod Ellingworth said.

“We have had some great results in 2023 and this group, along with the tremendous set of staff backing them up, will give their absolute best over three weeks of tough racing on some of the hardest parcours in cycling.”

Ineos Grenadiers to 2023 Vuelta a España

  • Thymen Arensman
  • Egan Bernal
  • Jonathan Castroviejo
  • Laurens De Plus
  • Omar Fraile
  • Filippo Ganna
  • Kim Heiduk
  • Geraint Thomas

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.