This edition of the Helta Skelta Vuelta looks like it could be epic. Not Giro or Tour de France sized massive, but maybe epic junior. Mucho Fantastico Galore.
The list of GC contenders is chock a block with serious talents. Bradley Wiggins of Sky has his collarbone back in one piece and is super motivated to aim for the podium. After his misfortunes in the Tour, he’s ready to capitalize on his form and hard work with a result in Spain.
“It’s a race I haven’t ridden before so it’ll be exciting to take part in and I want to produce a strong performance for all those people who have supported me since my crash at the Tour de France, said Wiggins. Watch out for the big Sky guy.
Pocket rocket Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha also has his sights set high for the Vuelta. The winner of the recent Vuelta a Burgos beat on Igor Anton (Euskatal-Euskadi) and Denis the Russian Menace in the battle of the Burgos.
“I’m not hiding that I’m well and that I’m going to race to win,” said Rodriguez. “It will be twenty days of hard racing – many things can happen but I know that I’ve worked the best I could have. I’m confident of delivering a better result than last year’s fourth place overall.”
We say watch out for Rodriguez and Katusha, the Russian Global Cycling Shindig. It’s deep pockets versus deep pockets, Katusha oil and gas versus media giant Sky. Things could get ugly and thrilling.
Then there’s Denis Menchov and his chronic fatigue side-kick Carlos Sastre. They form an intriguing one and a half prong attack that could unsettle things. Menchov has won the Vuelta twice and seems to always do well on the roads of Spain.
The team of the smoking footwear, Geox-TMC needs a big splash in the Vuelta after their non-invite at the Tour de France. Menchov plans to do just that.
“I’m starting out with the objective of obtaining the maximum result, although it won’t be easy,” Menchov said. “The route is grueling and I’ll be going up against some very competitive rivals. Fortunately, I’ll be able to count on the support of some excellent riders. I think our squad is well equipped to put in a good race.”
Sastre, who has been complaining of exhaustion and various aliments ever since he won the 2008 Tour de France, also claims he has finally found those “good sensations” that pro riders always talk about.
“For me the Vuelta is a very important event. I feel like health is on my side compared with the first part of the season, when I had several problems. I’ve finally found the momentum I’ve been striving for, both in training and during races,” said Sastre. “This is essential for me to take on a three week race. I’m hoping I can close out the season in the best way possible.”
F0r Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) it’s a case of unfinished business in Spain. The Basque riders was wearing the red jersey of race leader on stage 14 when he crashed heavily, fracturing his elbow. Until that moment, he was looking even stronger than eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas.
“For the Giro, I had the ambition to win a stage and no pressure on GC”, said Antón. “But for the Vuelta, it’s the opposite. The pressure is all for winning GC.”
His Director Sportif, the man with the most musical name in cycling, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, says the sky — no, not that Sky — is the limit for Anton. “We’ve built the 2011 season with the belief that Igor can win the Vuelta,” he said.
Things looks pretty damn thrilling and we haven’t even mentioned last year’s winner Nibali, back to defend the crown. He’d targeted the Giro this year but was forced to watch Alberto Contador stomp that dream. So he heads to Spain with the hope that one grand tour will come his way.
We are aware of our strength and the expectations that will be built up around the team,” said sport director Mario Scirea in a team release. “Nibali has had very positive training and is showing a new increase in form. We are certain that he will be among the protagonists of the race.”
Yes, Los Protagonistas! It’s Helta Skelta Veulta time!