Zakarin leads Katusha-Alpecin at Vuelta a Espana - News shorts

Ilnur Zakarin will lead Katusha-Alpecin at the Vuelta a España, which gets underway in Nimes on Saturday. He impressed en route to finishing fifth overall at the Giro d'Italia in May and he will aim to better that result on his Vuelta debut.

Rein Taaramae will offer Zakarin robust support in the high mountains, while Maxim Belkov and Alberto Losada are also on hand.

Sven Erik Bystrom, Marco Haller and Michael Mørkøv will be expected to be to the fore on the flat stages, though there is no place for European champion Alexander Kristoff, who leaves for UAE-Emirates at the end of the season. The Katusha line-up for the Vuelta is completed by José Gonçalves and Matvey Mamykin.

Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) lines out as favourite for the Vuelta and will renew acquaintances with July rivals Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Fabio Aru (Astana).

Zakarin, meanwhile, is among the small group of contenders to have eschewed the Tour and prepared specifically for the Vuelta. Zakarin won the Russian time trial title in late June on his return to racing after the Giro, and he continued his Vuelta build-up by riding the Tour of Austria in July and the recent Tour de Pologne, where he placed 11th overall.

Katusha-Alpecin for the Vuelta a España: Ilnur Zakarin, Rein Taaramae, Maxim Belkov, Alberto Losada, Sven Erik Bystrom, Marco Haller, Michael Mørkøv, José Gonçalves and Matvey Mamykin.

Bewley renews with Orica-Scott

Sam Bewley will remain with Orica-Scott in 2018 after agreeing a contract extension with the squad. The New Zealander joined the GreenEdge project midway through its inaugural season in 2012 and has remained a part of the roster ever since.

"It means a lot to continue with this team as it continues to grow into a real force across the board now. I have been with the team since 2012 and I have grown along with this whole organisation," Bewley said. "To remain with Orica-Scott and be a part of the momentum we have is something special."

A strong rouleur, Bewley was part of the Orica team that won the opening day time trial at the 2015 Giro d'Italia. The 30-year-old will look to marshal his leaders Esteban Chaves, Adam Yates and Simon Yates on the flatter stages of the forthcoming Vuelta a España. The team's triumvirate of young leaders means that it carries a threat in each Grand Tour on the calendar.

"I want to continue to be get better and better in the role I have grown into so I can play an important part in the results this team will achieve in the future," Bewley said. "I want to be part of our first Grand Tour victory, and hopefully more after that."

Twice a bronze medallist in the team pursuit at the Olympic Games, Bewley had a fine track career before devoting himself fully to the road. Directeur sportif Matt White welcomed the extension of his stay at Orica-Scott.

"We have had Sam since the start and we continue to see his commitment to the team's goals," White said. "Everyone needs workers and Sam is a guy that gets in, gets his hands dirty and lays it on the line when it's required."

Riblon looking for new team

Double Tour de France stage winner Christophe Riblon is looking for a new team after being informed by AG2R La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu in June that he will not be a part of the 2018 roster.

The 36-year-old Riblon turned professional with AG2R La Mondiale in 2005 and has spent his entire professional career with the team. Riblon was selected for the Tour each year from 2008 to 2015. He won mountain stages at Ax 3 Domaines in 2010 and l'Alpe d'Huez in 2013, when he was also elected the most combative rider of the Tour.

"In May and June, I had my best power values in five years. sure, it was at the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Boucles de la Mayenne rather than in WorldTour races, but the numbers don't lie," Riblon told L'Équipe. "I thought that would revive interest. I'm still convinced that I can be very good, that I can still be of use."

Although Riblon is still looking for a contract for 2018, he said that he had withdrawn himself from consideration for the Vuelta a España given the high ambitions of a team built around Romain Bardet.

"I'm conscious that my training in July wasn't serious enough to perform strongly at the end of the season," admitted Riblon, who lines out at this week's Tour du Limousin. "Honestly, I don't feel any rancour. Vincent [Lavenu] allowed me to turn professional and he believed in me even though I was already 24 years old by then."

If Riblon fails to find a new team for 2018, he already has an alternative career in mind. "I'd like to become a volunteer fireman. I'm overage for the exam, but there's a derogation for high-level sportsmen. Since I was 15 years old, I've wanted to do that."

Romain Hardy extends at Fortuneo

Romain Hardy has signed a one-year contract extension with the Fortuneo-Oscaro team. 

The Frenchman turned pro with the Breton outfit in 2012 but then spent four years at Cofidis before returning this season. He hasn't tasted victory since his first stint at the team, but this season was second behind Fabio Felline at Trofeo Laigueglia, 15th overall at Paris-Nice, and 26th overall on his Tour de France debut. 

The Fortuneo team has already made big signings this transfer window in the shape of Warren Barguil from Sunweb and Amael Moinard from BMC, with Eduardo Sepulveda departing for Movistar. 

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