The Ineos Grenadiers team set to support Chris Froome and Richard Carapaz at this year’s Vuelta a Espana is in the final stages of selection with an eight-man roster penciled in and submitted to the race organisers, and three further riders on standby before the final roster is announced in the coming days.
As Cyclingnews reported on Thursday, Egan Bernal will not take part in the race with the 2019 Tour de France winner set to concentrate on his long-term health. The Colombian was off the pace in this year’s Tour and withdrew with a back injury before Paris. There had been speculation that he could return for the Vuelta, which runs from October 20 to November 8, but the team has decided to rest their most valuable asset and build up towards 2021 and a return to the Tour de France.
That means Froome and Carapaz will lead the line in the three-week Spanish race and they are set to supported by a strong group of domestiques including Andrey Amador, Ivan Sosa, Sebastian Henao, Cameron Wurf, and Michal Golas with all eight riders on the roster submitted to the race organisers in the last few days.
Teams are allowed to alter their line-ups until a few days before the race begins and Ineos has told Cyclingnews that their final roster has yet to be confirmed. The team has included three possible substitutes on their submitted roster with Owain Doull, Carlos Rodriguez and Christian Knees all on standby should there be an injury or if the team decides that one of their alternate riders is in better form.
The inclusion of Knees on the list is no surprise given his invaluable experience. The 39-year-old is scheduled to compete in some of the remaining spring classics but has started 20 Grand Tours in his long career. Doull raced the Vuelta last year, making his Grand Tour debut in the process. Like Knees, he is completing in a few races in Belgium – including Gent-Wevelgem this weekend – and is listed as an alternate for the Vuelta.
Rodriguez's inclusion is somewhat of a surprise given that he is only 19 and racing his first year at WorldTour level but the Spaniard has impressed in his first full season at the top level. He came through the BinckBank Tour in September but has only raced 19 days so far this year.
Perhaps the biggest surprise at this stage is the inclusion of Wurf on the team’s provisional roster. The 37-year-old from Australia only joined the team in January after a six-year hiatus from racing at WorldTour level. He took part in the Ardennes Classics and his last Grand Tour came in the 2013 Vuelta.
Sosa made his Grand Tour debut in 2019 and was originally part of the Giro d’Italia plans but his inclusion in the Vuelta looks certain at this point, and along with Amador and Henao he will form part of the core of domestiques to support Froome and Carapaz in the mountains.
Froome heads into the Vuelta a Espana hoping to rediscover his best form after a long recovery from the career-threatening crash that took place in the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine. He was inline for a place in the Tour de France but was switched to the Vuelta just before the French race took part due to a lack of top-10 form. He admitted at the time that he wasn’t yet ready for a race as demanding as the Tour de France.
“I understand, 100 percent. I could feel myself that I wasn’t where I needed to be,” he told Cyclingnews and La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding his non-selection.
“I’m just going to continue focusing on being ready for the Vuelta. Maybe I’ll drop into one of the one-day races, maybe Liège-Bastogne-Liège or something like that. We’ll see how things progress.”
Froome started but didn’t finish Liege-Bastogne-Liege but used the one-day race to fine-tune his form after a long stint training at altitude. The Vuelta will be Froome’s final Grand Tour with Ineos before moving to Israel Start-Up Nation at the start of 2021.
Carapaz has also seen his race programme alter this year. He was originally scheduled to try and defend his 2019 Giro d’Italia title but after Froome and Geraint Thomas were left out of the Tour team Ineos decided to switch Carapaz to the Tour de France in order to back up Bernal. The former Movistar rider rallied after Bernal quit the race and finished second in two mountain stages. He was also narrowly beaten to the king of the mountains title on the penultimate stage by eventual race winner Tadej Pogacar but heads into the Vuelta a Espana with the chance to lead the team over three weeks.
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