A look at who's prepared for a Spanish September
There will be a quality field of sprinters lining up for this year's Vuelta a España this Saturday in Seville. Many of the big names seen at the Tour de France are vying for grand tour glory in Spain and we take you through a selection of the best.
Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team)
He may have narrowly missed out on the green jersey at this year's Tour de France, but Thor Hushovd again proved his Mr Consistency in grand tours. While stage wins may not be on the cards for the big Norwegian, he knows how to be in the mix every day and could net the Vuelta's points classification as a result.
His recent issues with the demise of the Cervélo Test Team may make for additional motivation as Hushovd will likely be on the market very soon - a good Vuelta ride will bump up his price significantly.
Support crew: Theo Bos, Roger Hammond
Mark Cavendish (HTC - Columbia)
As Dan Aykroyd's character Elwood says to John Belushi's Jake in 'The Blues Brothers': "We're getting the band together", and HTC-Columbia is doing the same in this year's Vuelta.
Bernhard Eisel, Matthew Goss and Hayden Roulston are all there to help Mark Cavendish make his mark on another grand tour and prepare for the world championships in Geelong, Australia.
If Cavendish decides to exit stage left early in the piece, Goss makes for an excellent back up plan, the Australian enjoying a fine streak of form after his win in the GP Ouest France-Plouay.
Support crew: Bernhard Eisel, Hayden Roulston
Allan Davis (Astana)
Davis is one of those guys who can pull the proverbial rabbit from nowhere when you least expect it. He's had a quiet 2010 save for the past month, where he notably held the leader's jersey and won the points classification at the Tour de Pologne
He's been named in Australia's final selection for the world championships road race on October 3, so the 30-year-old sprinter will be looking for a tune up and stage wins at this Vuelta. He may lack some firepower in support of those victories, however, which may prove problematic.
Support crew: Enrico Gasparotto, Dmitriy Fofonov
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions)
Two stage wins in this year's Giro d'Italia to add to his first grand tour triumph in last year's Vuelta have signalled the arrival of Tyler Farrar as a force in the year's biggest races.
The successful defence of his Vattenfall Classics title recently indicates the affable American is in form and should provide a suitable match for the motivated Mark Cavendish, who's out to take more grand tour stage wins in preparation for his shot at world championship glory in October.
Support crew: Julian Dean, Matt Wilson
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini)
After finally taking the Tour de France points classification, the last few months have been hard work for Alessandro Petacchi - not to keep winning races, but to clear his name against charges of doping that emerged earlier this year.
The experienced Italian says he's maintaining his focus on the Vuelta's sprints and there are few things more intimidating than a wounded bull. Look to 'Ale-Jet' to provide some more highlights throughout Spain and possibly go for another overall points title.
Support crew: Grega Bole, Danilo Hondo
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo)
'Enigmatic' would best describe Daniele Bennati's 2010 season. After his performances earned rave reviews from pundits several years ago, Liquigas-Doimo's mercurial sprinter has almost gone missing this year.
He won the points classification at the 2007 Vuelta, picking up three stages along the way. Three years later he's an unknown quantity in some respects, having not ridden a grand tour since last year's Vuelta, where he finished third in the points classification.
Support crew: Fabio Sabatini, Mauro Finetto
Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
Like Bennati, Belgian rider Greg Van Avermaet showed plenty of promise a couple of years ago but has largely been unseen so far this season. His 2008 Vuelta points classification win earmarked him for future greatness but in a sense he's failed to deliver.
Youth is on his side and at 25 he may show everyone during this year's Vuelta that he's starting to move into his prime as a sprinter. Look out for some surprises from the Omega Pharma-Lotto dark horse.
Support crew: Jan Bakelandts, Leif Hoste
Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step)
Some may say his win on a chaotic stage of this year's Giro d'Italia was a fluke, although Wouter Weylandt has been knocking on the door of a major success for some time. With no Tom Boonen to contend with for a protected spot in the squad, this really is Weylandts' time to shine.
Support crew: Matteo Tosatto, Andreas Stauff
Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
The three-time world champion knows what it takes to win at any of the grand tours - he's been getting round the pro ranks for years and winning big races for just as long. A stage win at the Vuelta could be a fitting send off for the Spaniard, who will retire at the end of this season.
He knows how to negotiate the helter-skelter of a crazy stage finale and he's likely to be in form given that he'll be aiming to go into the world championships as sharp as possible. The points classification won't be a priority, but stage wins will.
Support crew: Sebastian Langeveld, Paul Martens
Ben Swift (Team Sky)
Ben Swift was one of Team Sky's last acquisitions, having moved from Team Katusha where he had begun establishing a reputation for fast finishing thanks in part to third place in stage three of last year's Giro d'Italia. While the results haven't flowed for him in 2010, he's due for a victory soon.
At only 22 he's still got plenty of time to make his mark but the young man from Rotherham is a born winner and he'll want to prove big-spending Team Sky was right in signing him under somewhat controversial circumstances.
Support crew: Juan Antonio Flecha, Peter Kennaugh
Robert Förster (Team Milram)
A perennial contender in any sprint, Förster generally puts in a good showing at the Vuelta, away from the same hype and glamour that possesses the Tour every July.
He won the final stage of the 2006 Giro d'Italia in Milan and that same year won stage 15 of the Vuelta in Almussafes. In 2007 he took another Giro stage so he's a proven winner at the grand tour level.
The 32-year-old German isn't getting any younger however, and to be fair he's lost a yard or two of pace over the past few seasons. He'll be there, but maybe not in contention for line honours with the likes of Cavendish and Farrar are around.
Support crew: Niki Terpstra, Dominik Roels
Back to top