Zdenek Stybar will make his Grand Tour debut next week at the Vuelta a España. The race will also see Tony Martin working on his return to top form, and as he helps Omega Pharma-QuickStep in the opening team time trial at the three-week Spanish race.
The Belgian team announced its squad for the Vuelta on Saturday afternoon, with sports director Davide Bramati saying, "This year the race will be hard, with 13 stages considered medium or high mountain finishes. In the team we have good climbers, but also a rider as Steegmans who can be competitive in the six flat stages."
Stybar is a former cross country world champion, who has concentrated on the road the last two years. This season he has won stages at the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour of Poland. "It will be important for him to gain confidence," in his first Grand Tour, Bramati said.
Martin abandoned the Tour de France after breaking a bone in his hand early on, although he continued on through the ninth stage. The reigning world champion won the silver medal in the London Olympic time trial. In addition to seeing what he can do at the opening team time trial and the later individual time trial, "He could make another important step to returning to his top level, even in the mountains, after the fracture he suffered during the Tour."
The team will also be looking to Dario Cataldo, Serge Pauwels and Kevin De Weert for GC positions. "The objective of the team will be to try to win at least a stage, and put our guys for the classification in the best possible position at the end of the race," Bramati said.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep for the Vuelta a España: Dario Cataldo (Ita), Kevin De Weert (Bel), Tony Martin (Ger), Serge Pauwels (Bel), Frantisek Rabon (Cze), Gert Steegmans (Bel), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Niki Terpstra (Ned) and Kristof Vandewalle (Bel)