After crossing swords on Italian roads throughout the opening half of the season, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) will continue their duel at the Vuelta a España, and both men can count on solid support from their teams in Spain.
Scarponi pipped Nibali for second place at the Giro d’Italia in May, but Nibali enters the Vuelta as reigning champion and is sure to put up a stout defence of his title. He will be flanked in the Liquigas line-up by a number of the riders who rode in his service at the Giro d’Italia, including Eros Capecchi, Alan Marangoni and Valerio Agnoli.
“We know how strong we are and we’re also aware of the expectations surrounding our team,” Liquigas-Cannondale directeur sportif Mario Scirea said. “Nibali’s race preparations at Passo San Pellegrino with our trainer Paolo Slongo went extremely well and in Poland he showed that his condition has clearly improved: we’re sure he’ll be one of the main contenders.”
As well as supporting Nibali in his quest for a second red jersey, the squad’s Spanish campaign will see Peter Sagan make his eagerly-anticipated Grand Tour debut. The precocious Slovak has been in scintillating form in recent months and he will offer Liquigas an outlet in the sprints in the opening week, but Scirea was understandably keen to downplay expectations.
“Sagan is also in very good form but we mustn’t forget that he is only 21 years old and this is his first attempt at a three-week race,” Scirea said. “He needs to take the race a day at time without any pressure but also be aware that his enormous talent can produce great rewards for the team.”
The composition of Lampre-ISD’s Vuelta line-up follows a similar template to that of Liquigas, with Michele Scarponi poised to lead the team’s overall challenge, while Alessandro Petacchi will have his chance to shine in the sprints. As was the case at the Giro, Przemyslaw Niemiec and Marco Marzano are among the riders charged with protecting Scarponi.
“I’ve trained well in recent weeks and I’m coming to the Vuelta in rising form,” Scarponi said. “The aim is to try and do well day by day, with the ambition of getting stage wins. Then, if things are going the right way, I’ll see if it’s possible to aim at something bigger.”
After missing out on stage victory at the Tour de France, Petacchi is not lacking in motivation ahead of his third Grand Tour of the season. “I’ve always had a very profitable relationship with the Vuelta, I hope I manage to leave a mark,” he said.
Petacchi, who could also play an important role in supporting Scarponi, as he did on the Etna stage of the Giro. “If my help is needed for Scarponi, I’d be very happy to put myself at his disposal,” he said.
Scarponi, who trained with Petacchi on Mount Etna ahead of the Giro, believes that his teammate can win sprints and contribute to his overall challenge. “Alessando will be very important for me in terms of charisma,” Scarponi pointed out. “I can’t forget how sharp he was in the team during the Giro d’Italia.”
Liquigas-Cannondale team for Vuelta a España:
Vincenzo Nibali, Peter Sagan, Eros Capecchi, Valerio Agnoli, Damiano Caruso, Francesco Bellotti, Mauro Da Dalto, Alan Marangoni and Dominik Nerz.
Lampre-ISD team for Vuelta a España:
Francesco Gavazzi, Marco Marzano, Manuele Mori, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Alessandro Petacchi, Aitor Perez Arrieta, Daniele Righi, Michele Scarponi and Alessandro Spezialetti.