Sbaragali will start season for Dimension Data at Andalucia
Igor Anton, Mekseb Debesay, Omar Fraile, Cameron Meyer, Kristian Sbaragli, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Jay Thomson will line up for Dimension Data at the five-day UCI 2.1 stage race that begins Wednesday in Spain with a 165.2km route from Almonaster La Real to Sevilla.
The first three stages take place on undulating terrain, while stage 4 is a hilly 21km time trial. Sunday’s final 164.2 stage ends with a mountain top summit finish.
Sbaragli will get his season underway at Andalucia, while Meyer will return to racing after a competing in the Australian summer events. Fraile, Anton, Siutsou, Debesay and Thomson have all been competing previously in Australia, Spain and the Middle East.
“Ruta is my first race of the year, and the first race is always strange to try and predict,” Sbaraglu said. “My training in the winter has been really good and the team has already looked very strong. I am sure we will be ready and are able to challenge for the victory against our competitors at Ruta del Sol.”
Dimension Data for Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol: Igor Anton, Mekseb Debesay, Omar Fraile, Cameron Meyer, Kristian Sbaragli, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Jay Thomson.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice for Ruta del Sol
"The race in Andalusia is very demanding and runs through hilly terrain. Because of that we are basically lining up only climbers," said sporting director Piotr Wadecki. "Victor de la Parte will be the team’s leader. He has showcased in Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana that he is in good form early in the season. Also the course of the race – with mountain top finish and time trial - suits him."
Sylwester Szmyd, 37, makes his 2016 season debut at the race and Wadecki expects the Polish veteran to provide a further option for success as they continue to prepare for several WorldTour races CCC Sprandi has been invited to.
"Besides the Spaniard, we have selected few other riders who can perform well on the long climbs, such as Sylwester Szmyd, Jan Hirt and Łukasz Owsian," Wadecki added.
"Ruta del Sol is another event in our program, which draws many of the greatest cyclists in the world. That’s the only way to increase the level of our riders and prepare for the biggest World Tour stage races, such as Tour de Pologne, which has been our main goal in the previous years."
CCC Sprandi Polkowice for the Ruta del Sol: Victor de la Parte, Felix Großschartner, Sylwester Szmyd, Jan Hirt, Marcin Mrożek, Łukasz Owsian and Leszek Pluciński.
Lotto Soudal's Jelle Wallays using Volta ao Algarve for Classics preperation
Belgian Jelle Wallays made his Lotto Soudal at last month's Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise before staring the Etoile de Bessèges the following day. The 26-year-old's next race is the Volta ao Algarve where he will look to to build on his early sensations with the team and help lead out Andre Greipel in the sprints.
"I rode my first race kilometres of this season in the Etoile de Bessèges and I’m very happy about that race. Mainly, it was the case to maintain the good position of Tony Gallopin in the GC and that worked out well. It was the first time that I raced in the Lotto Soudal shirt. It certainly is a step forward and I feel really good in this team. The atmosphere is just great," Wallays explained.
"We’re already a few days in Algarve with several riders of the selection because Jürgen Roelandts owns an apartment in this region, that’s very handy of course. Personally, I think we’re going with a very strong team to the Volta ao Algarve. My role will be riding in function of the team. Preparing the sprint for André Greipel or keeping the GC riders in the front of the peloton. Perhaps I can test my own condition when it’s possible, we’ll see."
The Classics rider is looking to add to his 2015 Dwars door Vlaanderen win and 2014 Paris - Tours victory this season with Lotto Soudal and explained the five-day race is ideal preparation for the cobbles.
"The course isn’t flat at all but it’s the perfect preparation to start in the spring classics," he explained. "The recons of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad were also a step in that direction. It was nice to ride on the cobblestones again, although it was a bit difficult in the beginning because of the new bike and I had some troubles to find the right tyre pressure. But in the end, everything turned out well and Wednesday I will start with a positive feeling."
Sports director Herman Frison added that while the team will use the race to prepare for the Classics, he still wants to see his riders perform.
"First of all, this stage race is a preparation on the spring classics, but we won’t ride in the back of the peloton. We want to perform as well as we can and go for the victory in every race we participate. That will also be the case in Portugal," Frison said.
"The course offers two sprint possibilities. We’ll go for the victory with André Greipel or with Jens Debusschere in those stages. The other three days will determine the GC, which is not a main goal. We’ll wait how the race will evolve. If Tony Gallopin has a good position on GC we will defend that position of course."
Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) celebrates winning the 2015 Dwars door Vlaanderen (TDW Sports)
Bardet to go for Tour of Oman GC despite changes to Green Mountain climb
Having made his season debut at the 1.1 Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise last month, Romain Bardet is ready for his first stage race of the season at the Tour of Oman, even though the AG2R La Mondiale rider is unsure of his climbing condition. Bardet was 13th and the best young rider on the last occasion he rode the Tour of Oman in 2014, finishing eighth on the queen stage up Green Mountain. With added length to the climb in 2016, Bardet is unsure if he can repeat another top-ten performance but will try his best.
"This year there are top guys like Richie (Porte) who was pretty good in January and also Nibali and the others," Bardet said. "It’s going to be a hard race. Green Mountain is going to be pretty tough. There are close to two extra kilometres. We’ll have more than 7 kilometres of climbing. It’ll be very hard for February. I just hope to come out of Oman in a better shape. My level in training was good but racing is something else. I will try to improve stage by stage and why not go for the GC."
To read Cyclingnews' preview of the Tour of Oman, click here