German T-Mobile team is gearing up for the Vuelta a Pais Vasco from April 4-8, a rolling up and down ride through the Spanish Pyrenees. Scheduled to arrive on Saturday evening following the MP Miguel Indurain, the team's roster will warm up for the season’s fifth ProTour race.
"The constant up and down really wears on you," said directeur sportif Frans van Looy. The riders will face no less than 20 mountains from Cat. 1 to Cat. 3 during the stage race. Matthias Kessler and Alexandre Vinokourov, who will prepare for the Ardennes classics, will be T-Mobile's leaders. The two are joined by Christian Werner, Vinokourov’s Kazakh compatriot Sergey Yakovlev and Bernhard Kohl. The Austrian neo-pro replaces Giuseppe Guerini, who is forced to miss out on the race because of a 'flu. Also participating will be Andreas Klöden, who has fond memories of the race. The 2004 Tour de France runner-up triumphed at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco in 2000, celebrating his second big victory shortly after his first triumph that year at Paris-Nice.
Completing the roster are the two Spaniards Paco Lara and Oscar Sevilla, keen to shake up the race at the front on the demanding parcours. "They ride on their home terrain. To both the Tour of Basque country is a special challenge", said van Looy, "But that also goes for the home teams, who will dictate the pace." With regards to the strong competition, van Looy is not focused on the overall win. "In this respect we certainly don't rank among the favourites," the Belgian said. "But maybe Vino or Matse Kessler can pull off a stage victory." T-Mobile would certainly need, it, as the German team has not been able to score any victories this first part of the season.
The Basque team of Euskaltel, spearheaded by 2003 winner Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia, will aim for the overall win at this year's Pais Vasco. But also Illes Balears, lining up Alejandro Valverde, and Liberty Seguros with Roberto Heras, rank among the favourites. Dutch squad Rabobank is sending its Russian new addition and last years's winner Denis Menchov into action, while Swiss Phonak team is counting on Martin Perdiguero and Victor Hugo Peña.
Stage 1 - April 4: Zarautz - Zarautz, 133 km
Stage 2 - April 5: La Lejana - Trapagaran, 166 km
Stage 3 - April 6: Ortuella - Gasteiz, 176 km
Stage 4 - April 7: Gasteiz - Altsasu,167 km
Stage 5a - April 8: Altsasu - Oñati, 93 km
Stage 5b - April 8: Oñati - Oñati ITT, 9,3 km