Euskaltel-Euskadi team leader Samuel Sánchez has added his name to the growing list of high-profile contenders for the Giro d’Italia title. Speaking at the Basque team’s presentation at Euskaltel’s company HQ in Derio on Wednesday, Sánchez said that the Giro is likely to be "a very closely fought race because it will have a very classy field". He picked out, "(Bradley) Wiggins, (Ryder) Hesjedal, (Robert) Gesink, (Juan José) Cobo, (Vincenzo) Nibali, (Michele) Scarponi and (Ivan) Basso," as being among his likely rivals.
According to returning Euskaltel team manager Igor González de Galdeano, Sánchez will decide whether to start the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España once he has completed the Giro. González de Galdeano explained that the responsibility of leading the team at the Tour will fall on Sánchez’s co-leaders, Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve. He added that his principal goal is to finish among the top 15 teams in the WorldTour rankings.
"This will be difficult," he confessed. "If you achieve this it means that you have taken some great results." As part of this primary goal, González de Galdeano said that his team’s objective will be "to win a stage in the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta". He continued: "If we can be in contention for the podium [at the Giro] so much the better as that would mean that Samuel would have taken a top three finish in all three Grand Tours."
The fact that Sánchez is also looking towards the World Championships could well mean that the 2008 Olympic champion will opt for the Vuelta over the Tour. If this does turn out to be the case, González de Galdeano is confident that Antón and Nieve can contend for a stage win at what is a mountainous Tour de France. He indicated that all three of his leaders could then line up in the Vuelta, and at least two of them should be on the start line.
González de Galdeano is also hoping that the team’s young talents will continue their progression with a view to them becoming the squad’s eventual leaders. He pointed in particular to 25-year-old Romain Sicard and Gorka Izagirre, and 23-year-old Mikel Landa and Ion Izagirre.
González de Galdeano described the new-look team as being "solid" following the addition of its first foreign riders. It remains to be seen what kind of impact these new riders will have given that they have all been signed from teams outside the WorldTour. But González de Galdeano will be hoping that they can bag valuable ranking points even if victories continue to be hard to come by.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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