While Levi Leipheimer remains in the US for the Tour of Colorado, teammates Jani Brajkovic and Andreas Klöden will take aim at the Vuelta a España, which starts on Saturday in Benidorm, Spain.
The Spanish grand tour will give the American team the opportunity to bury the memory of their disastrous Tour de France in which Brajkovic, Klöden, Chris Horner all crashed out in and Leipheimer failed to impress. Despite Horner remaining in the US as he recovers from a blood clot, the team has a realistic aim of competing for a podium place in both Colorado and the Vuelta.
“During the Tour de France our fans all knew that crashes got the best of us,” said Johan Bruyneel.
“One month later only the names of the winners stay in their minds. But part three of the cycling season starts now and it’s time for us to show our real value again and to show the Team RadioShack jerseys on the podiums. Levi, Andreas and Jani have recovered from their injuries. They are ready to show how they could have performed in July.”
Klöden and Brajkovic will start as joint leaders in a mountainous Vuelta. While Klöden has proven grand tour pedigree – his last podium was in 2009 – Brajkovic heads into the race as an unknown in three week tours. His win at the 2010 Dauphine caught the eye and suggested more could come.
“Andreas is one of the most professional riders I have ever worked with,” added Bruyneel. “In 2011 he was never sick and he was really ready for maybe his best Tour de France ever. If his back injury doesn’t flare up again, he should be able to place very high in Madrid. Together with Jani, who showed good form last week in the Tour of Utah, he can be part of a dangerous duo.”
Bruyneel has once again decided to head into a grand tour without the option of a sprinter, choosing to supply both of his leading cards with ammunition in the mountains.
Tiago Machado and US national champion Matthew Busche will both travel to Benidorm. Busche was a key ingredient in the team’s success at the Tour of California earlier this year and with the national jersey on his shoulders it is a surprise that he will not join Leipheimer in Colorado, but Bruyneel clearly believes that the Vuelta will be the best option, perhaps with the idea of blooding him before next year’s Tour de France.
RadioShack line up for the Vuelta:
Riders; Jani Brajkovic, Matthew Busche, Markel Irizar, Andreas Klöden, Geoffroy Lequatre, Tiago Machado, Nelson Oliveira, Sérgio Paulinho & Haimar Zubeldia