The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) has announced a 16-man pre-selection for this month's World Championship road race in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Alejandro Valverde, Samuel Sánchez and three-time World Champion Oscar Freire have all been named in the long list.
The preliminary squad consists of Caisse d'Epargne's Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Daniel Moreno, Alberto Losada; Rabobank's Freire, Juan Manuel Garate, Juan Antonio Flecha; Euskaltel-Euskadi's Sánchez, Igor Anton; Xacobeo-Galicia's Ezequiel Mosquera, David Garcia; Xavier Tondo (Andalusia-Cajasur), José Angel Gomez Marchante (Cervélo TestTeam), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) David de la Fuente (Fuji-Servetto) and Liberty Seguros' Spanish National Champion Ruben Plaza.
Spanish Head Coach Jose Luis De Santos said he will make the final nine-man selection based on performances at the Vuelta a España, although he acknowledged that there were riders absent from the Grand Tour who will also be considered.
"It is an almost closed list, but not one hundred percent of riders at the Vuelta are guaranteed a spot [on the Worlds team]," said De Santos. "The Vuelta is not the only reference as there are some cyclists such as Plaza, Losada and Flecha who are not racing there, but they are in competition and may also find a place on the team for the World Championship."
In addition to the 16 named for a potential start in the road race, the RFEC confirmed their two representatives for the individual time trial, to be held on September 24. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Hector Guerra (Liberty Seguros) will travel to Switzerland to compete in the 49.8 kilometre race against the clock.
"Gutierrez and Guerra will be devoted exclusively to the time trial," said De Santos. "It is clear to me that it would be a disadvantage for a rider to do the time trial and the road race. The two events are very different in terms of preparation and the course profile.
Oscar Freire was the last Spanish winner of the World Championship road race in Verona, in 2004. Alejandro Valverde finished on the podium in the two years that followed (second in 2005 in Madrid and third in Salzburg in 2006). With the World Championship course in Mendrisio expected to suit an all-rounder, Valverde will head into the race as a favourite to break the three-year dominance of the Italian team.
Staying in Spain
Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) have joined Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Astana) as notable absentees from the preliminary list of riders announced for the World Championships by the RFEC.
It means that the Spanish team will be without three of its top-four riders on the International Cycling Union (UCI). However, it also demonstrates the depth of talent available to the World's top ranked nation.
Jose Luis De Santos had communicated with each of the riders, who had elected to forgo their spots on the National team at the end what has been, for each, a long season.
"[Alberto Contador and I] discussed the Worlds and the conclusion we reached was that he won't come to Mendrisio," said De Santos. "We'll have future opportunities to have him. It's similar to what happened with Carlos Sastre, who did not rule out being in the team, but would be preparing for the race from scratch."
Tour de France stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez was another rider that Spain will be without in Switzerland. "Sanchez also had a very long season and after doing the Tour [de France] it was logical for him to end the year," added De Santos. "He is another rider with who we will count on in the future."
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