Ane Santesteban and Amanda Spratt are among the climber heavy squad for Team BikeExchange at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, with the Australian rider easing back into racing in a support role as the team looks to Santesteban to capitalise on the familiar roads of her home tour.
The Women’s WorldTour event has expanded to four stages this year with the Spanish race, from September 2-5, including two mid-mountain stages, a mountain time trial and a sprint finale.
“This year the race is harder than the previous years, in Galicia the flat roads don’t exist,” Santesteban said in a team statement. “Also, the second stage with the uphill TT at altitude will be super hard finishing at 1500 metres. But we start with a really strong team and we’re ready to fight as a team."
Along with Santesteban and Spratt, Team BikeExchange are taking Lucy Kennedy and Urška Žigart to provide more options when the road heads up, along with Janneke Ensing and New Zealand champion Georgia Williams in support roles.
Santesteban is coming back after more than a month off racing, with the former Spanish national champion, who has twice finished in the top ten of the Giro d’Italia Donne, looking forward to taking on the seventh edition of the evolving race.
“After the Olympics and San Sebastian I took a few days off because I was feeling a little bit tired, but then I did a really good block of training at home and I feel really ready to start racing again specially in La Vuelta, because in the last years I have done lot of training in this area of Manzaneda,” said Santesteban.
Spratt is also returning to racing following a break after the Olympic Games road race.
“I’m really looking forward to being back with the team, it feels like a long time since the Giro,” said Spratt. “It’s a new race for me and completely new courses for everyone as well so that adds a bit more excitement.
“I’m not sure where the form will be after the bigger break without racing, but I’m mostly looking forward to racing well with the team and supporting my teammates for some good results. I’d love to take an opportunity in a stage, but my priority will be to support my teammates. It’s like a home race for Ane so I know she will be extremely motivated and that also gives me extra motivation!"
Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) has won the last two editions of the event, however with the change in the course, it’s likely to be the strong climbers battling for victory this year.
“The uphill time trial will be key for the general classification, but already on stage one we have lots of climbing so there could already be big time gaps,” said Team BikeExchange sports director Alejandro González-Tablas.
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