Five potential leaders add up to powerful squad on paper
The Spanish cycling federation RFEC has announced the national selection for the upcoming UCI road world championships in Limburg, Netherlands. All the team's big names have been confirmed for participation, with the full list of the nine riders selected by national coach José Luis De Santos reading as follows: Jonathan Castroviejo, Pablo Lastras and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Oscar Freire, Dani Moreno and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
The 2008 Olympic champion, however, is not a 100 percent certain to be able to take the start, as multiple injuries sustained at the Tour de France and later at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes have greatly affected Sanchez's peak of form this summer. He is currently riding the Tour of Britain and expected to take a final decision once the race ends this Sunday. "He is an important rider in our plan, but we'll have to see how he recovers from his injuries," team coach De Santos explained. "I first want to see how he comes out of this race and then we'll talk. I know that he'll be the first to withdraw if he's not competitive, as he did for the Olympic Games. If he can't take part, he'll be replaced by Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)."
As for three-time world champion Oscar Freire, the national coach was certain that he had completely overcome his ribcage injuries suffered in a crash during the Tour de France stage six. "He has fully recovered and is right on schedule as regards his form. And most importantly, he is very motivated. When he tells you that he feels well, then that is really how it is and that's the best guarantee," continued De Santos, who felt that this year's parcours was more suited to his riders than past editions.
"Our nine-man squad has various options, with riders who finished the Vuelta well and who are very motivated in view of a route that could suit them very well, in comparison to other years. But we are not the favourites. In my opinion, there are two teams who are, like Belgium, who has a very strong squad, and Italy, who is always a reference in the Worlds. But this doesn't mean we're not going for the win."
The five potential leaders - Valverde, Contador, Freire, Rodriguez and Sanchez - will be supported by "riders with experience in this type of event, like Flecha or Lastras. Moreno may be important in decisive moments and Castroviejo is a rider who has shown to be a very important team player, as he demonstrated in London or at the Vuelta a España."
Castroviejo will join Contador for the time trial event in Limburg. As for Vuelta winner Contador, who must still be fresh after returning to competition only at the beginning of August, De Santos was positive that he could be the favourite for the race against the clock. "He's come out of the Vuelta in excellent shape and after a few days of rest, he will have assimilated all the work at the race. Still, we should be careful, because even if Cancellara or Wiggins are absent, there are other riders that have prepared especially for this race, such as Tony Martin or Kessiakoff [who won the Vuelta time trial in Pontevedra - ed.]."
The Spanish contingent will be traveling to the Netherlands on Thursday, September 20. Castroviejo, who will line up at the team time trial event next Sunday with his Movistar outfit will already be on site.