Tinkoff-Saxo downplay GC hopes at Tour of the Basque Country

Tinkoff-Saxo have scaled down their general classification objectives for Tour of the Basque Country because several riders on the roster, including Rafal Majka, are currently bouncing back from illness.

“Initially, our team captain was [Robert] Kiserlovski, who should secure a GC result,” said team director Sean Yates. “But right now he’s in the process of getting back into shape after a tooth operation that required a break. We got Rafal, who is looking to boost his shape ahead of the Ardennes Classics, and we hope that he’ll do well during some of the harder stages in the second part of País Vasco.”

Lining up alongside Kiserlovski and Majka will be Edward Beltran, Evgeny Petrov, Bruno Pires, Pawel Poljanski, Chris Anker Sørensen and Oliver Zaugg. Yates said the team will start with no absolute captain, but he expects the riders to support each other and animate the race when the opportunities arise.

“We have groups of riders at the Classics, Circuit de la Sarthe, training camp on Tenerife and here at País Vasco,” Yates said. “So even for a team of our stature it’s necessary to tone down the race ambitions at some races. We aren’t pressuring Rafal Majka to deliver in the GC. He has goals at the Amstel, Fleche and Liége, but if he’s feeling well, then we know that he can do well in the kind of terrain that the pack will face.”

Tirreno-Adriatico winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is the favourite to win the tough six-day WorldTour stage race in the hills and country roads of the Basque Country. Grand Tour rivals Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) have opted to train at altitude instead of competing in the Basque Country, but Quintana will face some serious competition from Tejay van Garderen (BMC), world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin).

“We have strong names on the roster, but right now they are a mixed bag of guys since some of them are getting back from injuries and sickness and others are in the process of building their shape,” Yates said.

“Everyone will get their chances, and they are ready to support each other. We are going into the race with the ambition of giving the guys a chance to prove themselves, but ultimately you can only do as well as the legs allow. That’s why, considering the competition of guys like Quintana, who has shown strong shape, we need to be realistic.”

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