The German Milram has sent a young squad to the Vuelta a España in search of stage victories. Led by Erik Zabel, who may be retiring at the season's end, the rest of the team is so new that even with its 38-year-old captain, the average age of the nine-man squad is just 25. The team includes Artur Gajek (23), Christian Kux (23) and Sebastian Schwager (24), Martin Velits (23) and Matej Jurco (22), Andrey Grivko (25) and Volodymyr Diudia (25) and Fabio Sabatini (23).
Diudia, the winner of the UCI World Cup classification in the individual pursuit was fourth overall in that event at the Olympic Games, and will add firepower for the opening team time trial, as will four-time Slovakian time trial champion Jurco. Grivko, a former Ukrainian champion, had two narrow misses at stage wins in the South African Worlds View challenge in February, and could have a chance from a breakaway.
Zabel will be hoping to pad out his career Grand Tour stage total in the flat stages in this year's race. "In light of the competition there, that surely won't be as easy as at the Tour de France, but maybe at the Vuelta I will be luck enough to catch a perfect sprint," he said. Zabel was out-classed by the young speedster Mark Cavendish in both the Giro and the Tour de France, but will not have to face any of the Team Columbia sprinters as that team is not participating in the Vuelta.
He will be able to take one accomplishment out of the Vuelta, even if he does not succeed at winning a stage. "In this season I unexpectedly rode the Giro d'Italia, when we lost Alessandro Petacchi. Since the Tour and the Vuelta have long been part of my season planning, I can go ahead and live out my long-year plan of one time riding all three Grand Tours in one year."
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