Unlike the Tour de France, which was all about Alberto Contador's bid to complete the Giro-Tour double, Tinkoff-Saxo will head to the Vuelta a España with twin ambitions; one rider for general classification and one for stage wins.
Rafal Majka is the team’s GC leader in the absence of 2014 champion Contador, while Peter Sagan, who largely had to carve out his own opportunities in July and recorded a string of near misses, will have dedicated support on the flat and undulating stages.
The team’s full nine-man roster was announced on Tuesday, with Jesper Hansen, Sergio Paulinho, and Pawel Poljanski the men to gather around Majka. Paulinho is one of the most experienced Grand Tour domestiques out there, having guided Contador to Vuelta wins in 2008, 2012, and 2014 along with Tour wins in 2007 and 2009. Hansen and Poljanski are both young riders with considerably less experience but will provide valuable support in the mountains.
Daniele Bennati, who was present across the first 10 stages of the Tour, will help to tee up Sagan, who can also count on the power of Maciej Bodnar and Pavel Brutt. Jay McCarthy, a promising all-rounder, is the final name on the list and should be able to provide support across the board as well as getting himself into a breakaway or two.
“Here, before the start of the Vuelta, our goal is to win a stage with Majka and secure a good final position in the general classification with him. Majka is our clear GC captain and he will be up against most of the big stars such as Froome, Quintana and Nibali,” said Tristan Hoffman, the team’s head directeur sportif for the Vuelta, in a press release.
“At the same time, we’ll support Sagan, who’s feeling ready after a post-Tour recovery period. He will be targeting the flat and hilly stages, while Rafal will have the backing of the entire team in the mountains. Earlier this year, him [Sagan] and Bennati showed that they were able to set up successful sprints together. Furthermore, it will be difficult to control this race, so several of our guys might seek the breakaways to actively search for the openings. No matter what, we bring a group of guys that want to fight and we’ll see how the race progresses day by day."
Majka recorded top-10 overall finishes at the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2014, and three stage wins in the last two years at the Tour de France have more than confirmed the 25-year-old’s potential. The Pole will be up against many of the top names in stage racing and, like them, has faced a battle to shake off the exertions of July.
“I start and face this Vuelta a España with great enthusiasm. I’ve recovered well, both physically and mentally, which is also very important before a race this long, hard and far into the season,” said Majka.
“I have prepared well at altitude and I will soon know how my shape is exactly, as this Vuelta definitely doesn’t have an easy start. I’m happy to lead Tinkoff-Saxo at this Vuelta, I believe that we have a competitive squad and personally I’m very motivated.”
Sagan has also been looking to recover from the Tour, which was particularly onerous from his point of view. The Slovak got himself in breakaways time and again on the hilly stages in search of a stage win that, tantalisingly, continued to elude him.
“After a tough and demanding Tour de France, I had a good period of rest and I prepared myself in order to give my best at the Vuelta a España. I will assess my shape during the race. It will, undoubtedly, be a hard and challenging Vuelta and I look forward to going back to racing with my team," he said.
Tinkoff-Saxo for the 2015 Vuelta a España: Rafal Majka, Peter Sagan, Pavel Brutt, Jesper Hansen, Daniele Bennati, Maciej Bodnar, Sergio Paulinho, Pawel Poljanski and Jay McCarthy.
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