The Ag2r-La Mondiale team has named Domenico Pozzovivo as their team leader for the Vuelta a España, in the hope the Italian climber can take on Chris Froome (Team Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and finish in the top five overall.
There is no place in the Ag2r-La Mondiale line-up for Colombia’s Carlos Betancur, with the French team preferring to go with veterans such as Rinaldo Nocentini and Johan Vansummeren to back Pozzovivo. Also in the nine-rider roster are Gediminas Bagdonas, Mikaël Cherel, Alexis Gougeard, Blel Kadri, Sébastien Minard, Matteo Montaguti.
Betancur has not raced since the Giro d’Italia and was allowed to spend the summer at home in Colombia with his young family. He returned to Europe in early August but was not selected for the Tour de Pologne or the Tour de l’Ain. He has a contract with the French team for 2016 but it is uncertain what races he will ride in the remaining months of the 2015 season.
Pozzovivo finished sixth in the general classification of the 2013 Vuelta in his first season with Ag2r-La Mondiale. He crashed out of the Giro d’Italia in May but recovered from a nasty facial injury to ride the Tour de Suisse and finish fifth overall. He recently rode the Tour de l’Ain after training at attitude.
"It is never easy to be successful when the end of the season approaches. However, our Vuelta squad is an impressive one with a wide variety of riders. We could definitely hope a GC top 5 for Domenico Pozzovivo. The entire team will ride for him," directeur sportif Julien Jurdie said in the team announcement of the Vuelta a España squad.
"We expect him to be in the top five of GC because the 2015 route seems to suit him. Obviously, it won’t be easy for us because the Vuelta line-up looks incredibly good this year. However we know he is in great shape after his long stay at altitude."
Nocentini is named as Ag2r-La Mondale’s road captain, while the likes of Bagdonas, Vansummeren, Montaguti and Cherel will be Pozzovivo’s bodyguards.
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