Spain has named its nine-man squad for the UCI Road World Championships next week with Juan Jose Lobato and Carlos Barbero their main hopes for a medal. Jonathan Castroviejo will lead the way for the nation in the time trial, as well as competing in the road race.
Spain has a dearth of pure sprinters and the loss of Jose Joaquin Rojas to a broken tibula and fibula following a crash at the Vuelta a Espana was a big blow. Imanol Erviti, who also rides the time trial, and Francisco Ventoso will be key on the flat roads but the remainder of the nine-man squad is decidedly climber centric. Luis Angel Mate, David de la Cruz, Vuelta mountains classification winner Omar Fraile and Diego Rubio completing the line-up.
Alejandro Valverde was on Spain’s long-list but did not make, coach, Javier Minguez’s final selection. Valverde has been one of Spain’s most successful riders at the World Championships, after three-time World Champion Oscar Freire. The Murcian has been on the podium six times since 2003, although he is yet to win a gold.
Castroviejo is likely to be Spain’s best shot at a medal in the men’s competitions. While a slightly lumpier course would suit him better, the 29-year-old has been in a rich vein of form lately. After just missing out on a medal in the time trial at the Olympic Games in Rio, he went on to emphatically claim the European title last month. He also finished second to Chris Froome in the Vuelta a Espana’s main test against the clock. Castroviejo has been steadily progressing in the time trial event at the World Championships, finishing a career-best fourth in Richmond last season, missing bronze by three seconds.
Spain’s opportunities in the road race are somewhat limited and they will have to rely on a tough race or an opportunist attack. Lobato has not had the best second half of the season but recently finished fourth at Gran Piemonte. The length of the World Championships makes it a different prospect to most sprints and, in the past, he has shown his ability to sprint well after a long race when he finished fourth in the 2014 Milan-San Remo.
In Classics riders Erviti and Ventoso, Spain has two strong riders for the flat and often windy roads but they will no doubt leave much of the work to nations such as Germany and Great Britain. De la Cruz and Fraile arrive at the Worlds in good form following a strong Vuelta a Espana, which saw the former win a stage and wear the red jersey while Fraile won his second consecutive mountains classification.
The World Championships begin on Sunday, October 9 with the team time trials and finish with the men’s road race the following Sunday.