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Sastre names Menchov as Vuelta favourite

Carlos Sastre views his future teammate Denis Menchov (Rabobank) as the favourite for overall victory at the Vuelta a España, as he is the only rider in the field who has previously won the race. The Cervélo leader is also bullish about his own chances, saying that his third-place finish at the recent Clasica San Sebastien has helped him to rediscover his spark.

“Out of respect, the number one favourite is Denis Menchov. He is the only rider here who has already won the Vuelta. If he is motivated, he will do very well,” Sastre told Marca. The pair will ride together for the Geox team next season.

The Spaniard also ran the rule over some of the other overall contenders, picking out Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) as a potential dark horse at the race. “After his great Giro, this is the first time he’ll come to a grand tour with a team at his disposal,” Sastre explained.

Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) is another rider who Sastre believes will be high on motivation at the Vuelta because “he has never finished on the podium of a grand tour before.” He is less enthusiastic about the chances of the younger of the Schlecks, however. “I don’t think Andy is a favourite, he’s coming here to help his brother,” said Sastre.

Tactically, Sastre anticipates a very open and attacking race, especially in the absence of Alberto Contador. “Without Contador, who knows what might happen. No team will be able to control the race,” he said. “Alberto is a rider who does not fail, but without him, the picture changes and it might well be a more attractive Vuelta.”

Sastre trained on the Bola del Mundo climb ahead of the race, which makes its Vuelta debut on the penultimate stage. The final 3km of the climb are reputed to be the most difficult in the race. “Those kilometres can be compared to the Angliru, there are three hairpin bends with 22% slopes. When I went there it didn’t seem like a bola (ball) at all, it just went straight up like a lollipop,” Sastre joked

Meanwhile, Sastre spoke to AS of his departure from the Cervélo team at the end of this season. “It was a new team and I got personally involved in the organisation and growth of the structure,” he said. “But things hadn’t been going well with the direction of the team lately, and at this point in my career I need motivation. Now I will focus on the road and nothing else.”

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.