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The Davitamon Lotto squad came to the Vuelta with high hopes of a stage win by super-sprinter Robbie...
The Davitamon Lotto squad came to the Vuelta with high hopes of a stage win by super-sprinter Robbie McEwen. However the Australian was a little off his Tour de France form and was unable to top the podium before withdrawing early on. They went close to a victory on stage 12, though, with Bart Dockx taking second behind Luca Paolini. Directeur sportif Mark Sargeant told Cyclingnews afterwards that he was pleased with the team's efforts towards the end of what has been an injury-prone season.
"The team did well today - Chris [Horner] was in the first breakaway. The guys couldn't get into a good break recently but they did it today and rode well. Bjorn [Leukemans] is not 100 percent…this finish would have been good for him. Bart was good, but he was unlucky to have been caught between two friends [Paolini and Bettini].
The team is now missing three riders. One of those was highly placed overall but had to withdraw due to a bad accident. "It was sad for us that Jufre crashed earlier in the race because he was a guy for a top ten place. He was twelfth at the time. We have bad luck at the moment - Brandt in Belgium, Jufre here..it is a hard end of season for us."
Christophe Brandt crashed hard in the Schaal Sels at the end of August and suffered four broken ribs, a broken arm and a perforated lung. He lost a kidney as a result of the accident, and was initially in an induced coma until his condition stabilized.
Sargeant said that Brandt's recovery has been quick, but that he has a long way to go. "He is going to leave the hospital this weekend, but he has a long way back to be a rider. Firstly he has to recover from his injuries, then think again about being a competitive cyclist.
"It is difficult for us because we have only 26 riders. Most of the teams have 29 or 30. So crashes hit us harder. Tom Steels broke his shoulder, Leukemans broke his shoulder in the beginning, we lost De Vocht in the Tour of Flanders. So we have had a lot of riders without a lot of racing and that makes things hard for the end of the season. But we will keep trying, the guys rode very well today."
Sargeant is hopeful that this weekend will bring some success. "McEwen was second in Belgium yesterday [Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen], and then this weekend we have Paris-Brussels and the GP de Fourmies. We will try to win one of those with Robbie, and keep on going from there.
"As regards next year, Lief Hoste is coming to the team and there are a few others going. Van Petegem is going and Steegmans is unfortunately going to the Quick.Step team. We have five young guys coming to the team because we have several under 23 teams in Belgium. It is important to work with the young guys and give them opportunities with pro cycling."