Trek Factory Racing has named its nine-man roster for the upcoming Vuelta a España beginning Saturday. The team is taking an experienced squad lead by GC hopeful Fränk Schleck with Fabian Cancellara to pin on a race number for the first time since being forced to withdraw from the Tour de France while wearing the yellow jersey due to fractured vertebrae.
"I believe we are bringing a strong and balanced team to the start of the third grand tour of the season," team manager Luca Guercilena said. "We have our eyes set on the GC with Fränk [Schleck], and we'd like to come home with at least one stage win."
Schleck had been forced to sit out of the Tour due to a knee injury but gained confidence his form is returning after narrowly missing the Tour of Utah podium by two seconds.
"Everybody knows how much experience he has," Guercilena added. "He has had a couple of set backs this season and missed out on the Tour, but he's ready for this Vuelta and more importantly, he's very fresh. He raced Utah and only narrowly missed on the podium because of bonification seconds."
Assisting the Luxembourger in the mountains on his first return to the race since 2010, when he finished fifth overall, will be Haimar Zubeldia and Vuelta debutant Riccardo Zoidl.
Cancellara meanwhile, is expecting the first week to be a rough one but will has no pressure from the team to produce results with his emphasis building form and condition ahead of the world championships.
"Fabian comes to the start with different expectations and goals than other years because of the injury," Guercilena said. "It's absurd to think that he's doing this for the second time this season. But everyone knows his talent and his capacity to recover. The first week won't be easy for him, but he can suffer and he's determined to finish the season on a high."
With the Vuelta parcours one of the longest and most mountainous in years with 11 mountain stages in the first two weeks there will be scant opportunities for the fast men. Trek will be looking to the van Poppel brothers, Boy and Danny to deliver a stage win on the limited flat stages with Boy making his second grand tour appearance of the season having ridden the Giro d'Italia in May. With two stage wins at the recent Tour de Wallonie, Danny van Poppel will be looking to challenge the likes of Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb in the sprints.
Jasper Stuyven returns the race having made his grand tour debut at the Vuelta last season and offers the team an option for breakaway success while Yaroslav Popovych adds further grand tour experience as he lines up for his 19th three week race.
There will be a first for the team at the grand tour with Markel Irizar selected by Trek to test the new disc brake Domane model at certain points in the race.
"We'll be testing different wheel depths, multiple rotor options (mostly 160mm, but some 140mm too) and multiple brake pads, everything top of the line Shimano of course. The bike will be about a pound heavier," Trek's press manger Tim Vanderjeugd told Cyclingnews via email last week. "The goal is to find out what disc brakes bring to racing. We don't know if disc brakes are really an advantage in a race situation. It's very possible and this is a great opportunity to study and understand that. We'll cherry pick some stages and try to find answers."
Trek Factory Racing for the Vuelta a España: Fabian Cancellara, Markel Irizar, Jasper Stuyven, Yaroslav Popovych, Fränk Schleck, Boy Van Poppel, Danny Van Poppel, Riccardo Zoidl and Haimar Zubeldia.
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