Euskaltel-Euskadi has named a strong squad of riders to support Igor Antón’s bid for victory in the Vuelta a España, which starts in Benidorm on August 20. Winner of two stages in last year’s race and one in this year’s Giro d’Italia, specialist climber Antón will be among the favourites for the title over what is an extremely mountainous course.
The Basque team has selected 10 riders for the race, one of whom will drop out of the line-up. In addition to Antón, Giro and Vuelta stage-winner Mikel Nieve also features, as does former Vuelta mountains champion Egoi Martinez. Also in contention for a place on the start-line in Benidorm are Gorka Verdugo, Amets Txurruka, Juan Jose Oroz, Iñaki Isasi, Pierre Cazaux, Jorge Azanza and Iván Velasco.
Antón enjoyed very mixed fortunes in last year’s race. As well as winning two stages, he also held the leader’s red jersey, but crashed out while wearing it on the stage to Peña Cabarga, breaking his elbow when he appeared to touch wheels with a teammate. Martínez was also forced out in the same incident after suffering a dislocated collar bone.
This year’s race will be especially significant for the Euskaltel team as it will be the first time the Vuelta has ventured into the Basque Country for 33 years. There are two key stages at the tail-end of the final week in the region where Euskaltel is based and from where it draws all of its riders.
There had been some conjecture that Tour of Burgos stage-winner Mikel Landa might force his way into contention for a Vuelta start. However, team boss Igor González de Galdeano has opted to focus on experience rather than young talent as the team target their first Grand Tour victory. Landa will instead ride a five-day race in France and the two one-day WorldTour events in Canada.