By Antonio J. Salmerón
Oscar Freire and Alejandro Valverde in the road race, and Jose Iván Gutiérrez in the time trial: that's Spanish selector Paco Antequera's plan for the World Championships in Salzburg. But Antequera will wait until after the Vuelta before deciding on the group of riders that will take part in the World's.
"Previous experience, as well as the nature of the parcours, have created a plan that will be based on Freire and Valverde as leaders, and with another rider as a joker," said Antequera on the RFEC website.
Spain will be allowed a maximum of nine riders in the World's, in line with the other top nations. Who will be Spain's joker? "Astarloa has some physical problems, and until he knows how he is going, I don't know if I can have him. It could also be Perdiguero, but it depends on how the Vuelta goes." Another rider who is almost fixed in Antequera's schemes is Oscar Pereiro. "Not because he has won the Tour, but because I liked what he did last year in Madrid a lot."
Antequera does not know the parcours in Salzburg yet, "although I have some references from Juan Carlos Martin, and the road circuit is similar to the Madrid one, but perhaps a little harder."
At the moment, the Spanish selector has already followed the national squad in the Vuelta a Burgos and in Clásica de San Sebastián, although he has not drawn too many new conclusions. "I cannot say that Gutiérrez has surprised me in Burgos, because I know him perfectly. I liked the attitude of Xavier Florencio in San Sebastián a lot. He is a rider who has been up there in previous years, but has remained on the sidelines. And now, for Salzburg, he could have that opportunity."