Prologue winner Haimar Zubeldia (Team RadioShack) started stage one in the leader's yellow jersey.
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Spanish veteran back in national squad after eight years
Haimar Zubeldia is back in the Spanish team for the world championships and says he'll give everything to help teammate and three-time world champion Oscar Freire take a fourth title in Australia.
"I hope to repay all the confidence the coach has placed in me by helping Oscar to do what no cyclist has done so far, winning four world titles," Zubeldia told Europa Press before heading to Australia for the Worlds.
The RadioShack rider will ride his third world championships, the first being in Ouest-France in 2000, the last one Zolder, Belgium, in 2002.
After his Tour de l'Ain win and strong performances in the Grand Prix de Québec and Montréal, where he finished 11th and fourth respectively, Zubeldia was included in the Spanish selection announced recently, although mid-season the prospect of that happening didn't look so good.
A broken radial bone suffered during the Dauphiné Libéré kept him out of the Tour de France and he explained that it was a tough period that required some fundamental thinking and motivation.
"They were difficult times which allowed me to reflect and re-establish myself on the bike and train with the same enthusiasm as ever, but with an inner strength which is very difficult to explain," he said.
The focus on Freire as Spain's candidate for the win comes after the withdrawal of Katusha rider Joaquin Rodriguez, who took a stage and led the overall standings for some time at the recent Vuelta a España, citing fatigue after a successful year as the reason he wouldn't be traveling to Australia.
Regardless, Zubeldia believes that "the Spanish team is of a high level, with experience in the worlds, which is very important so as to not be nervous on that one day and have clear ideas," adding that the teams to look out for will be "the Italians, which are always strong, the Australians, who are at home and Belgian riders like [Philippe] Gilbert."
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