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Costa and Meintjes to lead UAE Emirates at Vuelta a Espana

UAE Team Emirates is heading into the Vuelta a Espana with a two-pronged approach that features Louis Meintjes and Rui Costa for the general classification, while Darwin Atapuma, Jan Polanc and sprinter Sacha Modolo will hunt stage wins.

"We have a good team," said sports director Simone Pedrazzini. "All the guys are in good form.”

Meintjes recently announced a two-year deal with Dimension Data, but the 25-year-old South African remains UAE's best hope for a top GC result in Spain. Meintjes finished 10th in the race in 2015, but was 40th last year. His performance in this year's Tour de France, were he finished 8th overall, bodes well for his Vuelta chances, however. His last race was July 29 at the one-day Clasica San Sebastian, where he finished 20th.

“I have been doing high altitude training in Andorra to prepare for the Vuelta a Espana," Meintjes said. "The goal is to fight for the GC, but we will have to see how my body has recovered after the Tour de France effort.”

Costa, 30, who will be making his Vuelta debut, did not race the Tour de France this year, choosing instead the Giro d'Italia, where he finished second on stages 11 and 19. he followed that with the Tour de Suisse, where he finished fifth, and most recent raced at the Tour of Poland, where he finished 10th.

"This will be my first Vuelta a Espana and I'm happy to ride in it," Costa said. "I want to live day by day without thinking specifically about the general classification, enjoying every single stage. The third one will already be a good test to understand what kind of shape I’m in."

Costa has two wins so far this year, taking stages in the Vuelta a San Juan in January and again at the Abu Dhabi Tour in February. The team's stage hunters have found varied levels of success this year, with Atapuma finishing second in the Tour's stage 18 that finished atop the Izoard. Polanc climbed to the stage 4 win on Mount Etna at the Giro and seized the Slovenian time trial title in June.

Modolo has four wins so far this year, taking two stages at the Tour of Croatia and another recently at the Tour of Poland. He also won the one-day GP du canton d'Argovie in Switzerland. 

The Vuelta starts Saturday with a 13.8-kilometre time trial in Nimes, France.

UAE Team Emirates for the Vuelta a Espana: Anass Ait El Abdia, Darwin Atapuma, Rui Costa Rui, Louis Meintjes, Sacha Modolo, Matej Mohoric, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Jan Polanc, Frederico Zurlo

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