No Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas but Team Sky send strong team to Vuelta a Espana

With Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas racing at the Tour of Britain next month, Michal Kwiatkowski and David de la Cruz will head up Team Sky’s general classification ambitions for the Vuelta a Espana.

Alongside Kwiatkowski and De La Cruz, the team has opted for a blend of youth and experience. Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov will make their Grand Tour debuts with Jonathan Castroviejo, Sergio Henao, Salvatore Puccio, and Dylan van Baarle completing the line-up.

Kwiatkowski has shown promise as a Grand Tour rider in the past with his 11th place at the 2013 Tour de France. In recent years, however, he has turned his focus to the Classics and shorter stage races, while riding in a support role in three-week races. The Polish national champion has had a strong 2018 campaign with overall victories at the Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico at the start of the season.

He played a key role in the mountains for team leaders Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome during the Tour de France and held his form to take victory at his home race, the Tour de Pologne. Kwiatkowski has only ridden the Vuelta a Espana once before, in 2016 during his debut season with Team Sky. It will be the first time that the 28-year-old has ridden two Grand Tours in the same season.

“Vuelta selection is another important step in my career. I’ve never raced two Grand Tours in one season, so I am intrigued to see how my body will react to that challenge. But I don’t feel any pressure – just excitement before a new experience,” Kwiatkowski said in a team press release.

“It’s been a busy summer for me. Just six days after the Tour de France I started in the Tour of Poland and was able to stay in top shape, winning my home race. This year I’m trying to finish the season with a slightly different approach. I think that staying in a racing rhythm might just suit me.”

De La Cruz has a difficult relationship with Grand Tours, having abandoned five of the eight he’s started. However, he has showed potential with seventh overall at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. Last season, he was sitting just outside the top 10 on the final mountain stage when he crashed heavily on a wet descent shortly before the climb of the Alto d l’Angliru. He played a support role for Froome at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year, but his home Grand Tour has been his main target this season.

“It’s so exciting. The Vuelta has been my big goal of the season. I’ve worked really hard in the months following the Giro d’Italia and finally it’s time,” said De la Cruz.

“I felt really comfortable during Vuelta a Burgos and feel really at home in the team. Everyone was working perfectly together there and I’m really looking forward to La Vuelta. It’s my home race and it’s going to be special to do it with Team Sky.”

Alongside the experienced heads of Castroviejo, Henao, Puccio, the team will be sending three Vuelta debutants. The 26-year-old Van Baarle is a veteran of four Grand Tours but this will be his first time at Spain’s biggest race. Meanwhile, Geoghegan Hart and Sivakov are set to ride their first three-week races.

Geoghegan Hart is in his second season as a professional and recently finished fifth at the Vuelta a Burgos, while helping De la Cruz to third. The 21-year-old Sivakov is in his debut season at this level, but has put in some strong performances, particularly his 14th overall at the Tour de Suisse in June.

The Vuelta gets underway in Malaga on Saturday with a prologue.

Team Sky for the Vuelta a Espana: Michal Kwiatkowski, David de la Cruz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonathan Castroviejo, Sergio Henao, Salvatore Puccio, Pavel Sivakov and Dylan van Baarle

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