Heading into the team's final ever Grand Tour, Tinkoff directeur sportif Steven de Jongh is hopeful that the Russian squad can propel Alberto Contador to his fourth Vuetla a Espana win before disbanding at the end of the season.
Contador had targeted the Vuelta a Espana ever since crashing out of the Tour de France in July and warmed up for his home grand tour with a win in the Vuelta a Burgos earlier this month. The Vuelta, however, will be a far sterner test with Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) among the Spaniard's main rivals.
For de Jongh, the main objective is to close out the team with a final grand tour victory.
"It's sad but we also want to give things a good ending. Our main goal is to bring Alberto to Madrid in the best possible position," de Jongh told Cyclingnews.
In July Tinkoff looked far from harmonious at times and even though Peter Sagan came away with several stages, the Green jersey and Rafal Majka claimed the king of the mountains competition, there were question marks around rider loyalty towards Contador.
De Jongh asserted that there would be no such problems this time around that the entire squad would be pulling in the same direction.
"What's clear is that we only have one goal and that's helping Alberto win the Vuelta. I don't see there being a problem. Alberto is in good condition so all the riders know what to do. None of the riders are in trouble for next year so we'll have a good team," he added.
The Vuelta a Espana starts on Saturday in the northern region of Galicia with a team time trial. This is not a speciality for Contador's team and De Jongh admitted that it would be a test for the team, saying that they would need to limit their loses before the route turns towards more favourable terrain.
‘I've not seen all the other teams yet but we won't have the strongest team for the opening team time trial. If we all do our best then we shouldn't be in too much trouble because we have a few engines there."
"Alberto puts himself under pressure and after Burgos he said he wanted to win the Vuelta again. We'll just give him the best support. It's a hard parcour with a lot of mountain top finishes and many climbs. He's done some recon so there shouldn't be many surprises in the route."
While Contador and Quintana skipped the Olympic Games in Rio in order to concentrate on their Vuelta preparations, Chris Froome won a bronze in the individual time trial. The performance gave a brief insight into the Tour winner's current condition, which although was good enough to win a medal was arguably below his level Tour de France standards. Whatever Froome's true form at the start of the Vuelta, de Jongh seems the Briton as Contador's biggest rival.
"If you looked at just the time trial maybe you can say he was tired but a one-day time trial is totally different to a time trial in a stage race. I think he will be good otherwise he wouldn't be at the start. We see him as the main opponent."
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