By Antonio J. Salmerón
Alberto Contador (Astana), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) will be the main attractions of the Challenge de Mallorca this year, as confirmed today the race organizers in Mallorca, where the five-day race will take place on February 10 to 14.
In addition, German Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Frenchman Sandy Casar (La Française des Jeux) will attend the Balearic Islands Challenge, which will mark the usual start of the professional cycling season in Europe.
Organized by Unisport Consulting, the Challenge de Mallorca is celebrating its seventeenth edition, during which the reigning Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will made his debut with his new Kazakh team Astana following the end of his former Discovery Channel team. Contador will find support at Astana under director Johan Bruyneel and with German Andreas Klöden, Spaniard Toni Colom and American Levi Leipheimer. Klöden and Colom are among those set to attend the Challenge de Mallorca.
In addition to racing in Mallorca, Russian Menchov, two-time winner of the Vuelta a España, will lead the Rabobank Team in the Vuelta a Andalucia and the Vuelta a Murcia as he readies for his main gigs in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.
Caisse d'Epargne's Pereiro and Valverde are making their season debut in Mallorca. Afterward, Valverde will prepare to defend his 2007 win in the Vuelta a Murcia. Both Spaniards face a particularly important season in their respective professional careers after a tumultuous 2007 season 2007 for both of them, although in Pereiro's case, he ended the season with recognition as winner of the 2006 Tour de France.
In total, eighteen teams will take part in the Challenge de Mallorca, including the three Spanish UCI ProTour teams Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel-Euskadi, and Saunier Duval-Scott in addition to six Professional Continental and two Continental teams. Finally, Joan Llaneras will lead the participation of the national track team.