German team Gerolsteiner has announced its line-up for the upcoming Vuelta a España. The squad directed by Hans-Michael Holczer will have Davide Rebellin as team leader during the event, as well as young stage race hope Markus Fothen. The 24 year-old got second in the young rider classification at the Tour de France this year. For the flat stages, Gerolsteiner will be looking to Robert Förster, who won the last stage of the Giro d'Italia in a bunch sprint in May. Young Australian-German Heinrich Haussler, who already won a stage in the Vuelta last year, will also participate.
"We will be lining up a team geared towards stage wins especially," said sports director Raimund Dietzen, who scored three stage victories himself in the Spanish stage race in the 80's - on top of his three overall podium placings. "Robert Förster can go for the sprints, and Heinrich Haussler and René Haselbacher in the breakaways. And for the harder terrains we have Torsten Hiekmann and Andrea Moletta." Not to forget the team captain, Davide Rebellin, who is always good for a stage win according to Dietzen, but will not eye the general classification that much.
The same goes for Markus Fothen. "Markus is there to gain experience at yet another grand tour," continued Dietzen. "It's sort of a preparation for the 2007 Tour de France. That's why our expectations about him will not be very high. Still, Markus will certainly pick one or two stages to show his capabilities."
The full Gerolsteiner roster in Malaga on Saturday will be: Davide Rebellin, Marcus Fothen, Robert Förster, Heinrich Haussler, Torsten Hiekmann, Sven Montgomery, Marcel Strauss, René Haselbacher and Andrea Moletta.
Italian team Liquigas is also looking to win stages in the Vuelta, as team manager Roberto Amadio confirmed. The great names of the team will be Danilo Di Luca, Luca Paolini, Magnus Bäckstedt and Dario Cioni.
Di Luca already won a stage of the Vuelta in 2002. "I’m ready to perform well," he said. "I’ve been training hard on home roads. I want to come out of the most important Spanish race in peak form and I hope that a stage win could give me the chance of taking part into the World Championships. I like the Vuelta: I’ll take part in it for the fifth time and I’ve already seen some stages that can suit me."
As for Paolini, he will race the Vuelta for the fourth time in his career. "I feel in very good form but I can better it even more," he said. "I approach the Vuelta with optimism: I’m going to fight for a stage win in the first part of the race, but I have to pay attention not to overdo things on the routes that don’t suit me very much. Before the World Championships I’ll have to do more workout and lose about one kilo..."
Here's the complete list of the Liquigas riders racing in Spain: Dario Andriotto, Magnus Bäckstedt, Kjell Carlström, Dario Cioni, Danilo Di Luca, Francesco Failli, Luca Paolini, Alessandro Spezialetti and Charles Wegelius.
The Astana ProTour team for the Vuelta a España is also decided: Carlos Barredo, Assan Bazayev, Andrey Kashechkin, Aaron Kemps, Sergio Paulinho, José Antonio Redondo, Luis León Sánchez, Alexandre Vinokourov and Sergey Yakovlev. The Spanish squad will be directed by Herminio Díaz Zabala and Neil Stephen. No one of the riders and staff is reportedly implied in the Operación Puerto affair which has been rocking Spain and the cycling community worldwide.
Team Astana arrived on Wednesday evening in Málaga from Madrid. Both Vinokourov and León Sánchez are referred to as contenders for the overall classification, and Spanish media have count on Astana as favourites for the prologue stage of 7 kilometres against the clock on Saturday, August 26.
Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón