Denis Menchov has passed very much under the radar this season. Affected by allergies and physical problems at the Giro d’Italia, the Russian rarely featured in that race’s key moments as he finished a slightly disappointing eighth overall. Sidelined from the Tour de France for the first time in a decade as a result of his Geox-TMC team’s failure to get an invite, he instead rode the Tour of Austria, finishing fifth overall. He now looks towards the Vuelta a España, which starts in less than three weeks.
Twice a winner of Spain’s national tour, Menchov has his sights set on a third victory. Speaking to El Diario de Navarra, the local paper in the northern Spanish province where he has long resided, the 33-year-old Russian said his 33rd place at the San Sebatián Classic last weekend showed that his “form is good. I’ve been training well and I think that riding the Tour of Burgos will be sufficient to carry me through to the Vuelta in good shape.”
Winner of the Vuelta in 2005 and 2007 when he was riding with Rabobank, Menchov said that he is fired up to contend for the title again. “I’ve got a real hunger for the bike and a real desire to win the Vuelta. The route looks hard to me, very demanding considering the late stage of the season when it takes place. But you have to go there with the right attitude. I know the climbs and key points well, and I know how you need to ride there.”
Asked if Igor Antón is likely to be his main rival for the title, Menchov replied: “Igor has been riding well and there’s no doubt he’s well prepared, but for one reason or another he’s never managed finish things off. I think there are three or four riders who could be in the hunt for the title.”
The Russian said he doesn’t feel that this has been a difficult year for him after his switch from Rabobank. “Rather than being difficult, it’s been a different year. Changing team after spending so many years in the same place is not easy. Of course cycling all comes down to riding your bike, but important things change in these situations – the structure, the equipment, your teammates – and you need time to get used to a new team and it’s normal that it’s taken a while for things to settle down.”
Menchov said that he intends to see out the final year on his contract with Geox, scotching rumours about a possible move to Katusha, following reports that he had smoothed things over with Katusha team boss Andrei Tchmil. As for missing the Tour, he admitted: “Of course it would have been good to have ridden the Tour, but things are as they are. It’s no bad thing to have a change of plans having spent 10 years riding the same races and missing the Tour might perhaps turn out to be worth it.”