LA VUELTA: INFO WITH TWO DAYS TO GO
October 18 th 2020 - 18:52 [GMT + 2]
· The riders of the 75th edition of La Vuelta underwent the first COVID-19 testing campaign of the race yesterday in Irún. After successfully passing the PCR test, they will be part of the “race bubble”, a safe space where they will live and ride all the way to Madrid.
· Movistar Team is ready for its 41st presence at La Vuelta, having selected a very experienced line-up with Alejandro Valverde, Enric Mas and Marc Soler as spearheads. On the other hand, Israel Start-Up Nation enters the Spanish Grand Tour for the first time, while Total Direct Energie, Burgos-BH and Caja Rural-Seguros RGA will be the guest teams.
· One third of the peloton of La Vuelta 20 is made out of debutants. Amongst them, several marquee names like Guillaume Martin, Aleksandr Vlasov or Iván Sosa.
A MOBILE COVID-19 LAB FOR A SAFE VUELTA
La Vuelta 20 has adapted to the current, global health crisis. Besides a detailed and thoroughly applied protocol and the basic individual responsibility of the components of the race’s different bubbles, the organisation is making use of a mobile COVID-19 lab that will travel along with the race during the next three weeks. Provided by Spanish companies Bioser and Biorama, it’s a 14-metre truck equipped with 18 health professionals and 3 different analysis booths, able to certify the health status of between 700 and 750 people per day with PCR tests.
The peloton underwent this Sunday the first testing campaign of La Vuelta 20 in the headquarters of the race, set in Irún’s FICOBA. “It’s the new normal now,” says Team Sunweb’s Jasha Sütterlin. “The most important thing is everybody takes care of themselves and of the others. If we all do our part, we will make it safely through the Vuelta.” Iván Sosa, Colombian rider of Ineos Grenadiers, echoes similar thoughts: “I feel safe seeing the set-up of the COVID-protocol at La Vuelta 20. We are all guaranteeing everybody’s health safety by being very cautious and doing our best both on and off the race to fight against this virus.” On a different note, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Michael Schwarzmann also speaks of the sporting component of the current health crisis. “It certainly affects the racing. We cyclists are racing every day as if it was the last one because of the uncertainty of the situation.”
THE EXPERTISE OF MOVISTAR TEAM ON ITS HOME RACE
As the longest-standing team in the elite of road cycling, and the spearhead of the Spanish peloton, Movistar Team is the main reference of the pack in every edition of La Vuelta. This year, the race’s official start is hardly an hour away from the team’s headquarters in Egüés (Navarre). This outfit has participated in La Vuelta as many as 40 times under its different names (Reynolds, Banesto, Illes Balears, Caisse d’Épargne and, since 2011, its current incarnation Movistar Team), collecting 63 stage-wins and 4 overall triumphs with Pedro Delgado (1989), Abraham Olano (1998), Alejandro Valverde (2009) and Nairo Quintana (2016). As for La Vuelta 20, Eusebio Unzué has picked an impressive line-up whose 8 riders total 44 participations on this race, as well as 16 stages won. Alejandro Valverde is of course the man who contributes the most to the stats, with 14 participations and 12 stage victories on his home grand tour. This year, the team’s GC chances lay mostly on two up-and-coming riders like Enric Mas (2nd in 2018) and Marc Soler (9th in 2019). The expertise within Movistar Team will certainly be of great help for these young, promising riders.
DEBUTANTS AIMING HIGH
On La Vuelta 20’s startlist there are 64 riders who are entering the Spanish Grand Tour for the first time on their careers, a number slightly superior to the average of the previous editions (62,6). Amongst them we find many cyclists who can well have a say on how the competition pans out. Cofidis’ Guillaume Martin, par example, comes to the race after placing 11th on the recent Tour de France. Astana’s Aleksandr Vlasov wasn’t that lucky on the Giro d’Italia, as he had to pull out on the second stage due to stomach problems, but he has been one of the most brilliant climbers of the season and is the sole leader of his team. The Russian certainly stands a chance of winning the White jersey, awarded to the best-placed on the GC amongst the riders born from 1995 on - but he will have to contend with other debutants such as Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu, Ineos Grenadiers’ Iván Sosa or Trek-Segafredo’s Juan Pedro López, one of Spain’s main hopes for a breakthrough ride. Indeed, 46 out of the 64 debutant riders are qualified to fight for this White jersey.
GUEST TEAMS LOOKING FORWARD TO PLAY THEIR PART
Along with the 19 UCI WorldTeams, there will be 3 UCI ProTeams acting as guest teams on one of the world’s biggest races. Total Direct Energie earned the right to enter La Vuelta for the 10th time on its long history by being the top UCI ProTeam of the 2019 season. Its DS Lylien Lebreton commands a team “focused on stage-hunting, with riders like Jonathan Hivert or Julien Simon that have already won many races in Spain.” Also Niki Terpstra is lining up for the French team, after “specifically asking to race here” according to Lebreton.
The two wild cards were awarded to two Spanish teams, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and Burgos BH. The former is a classic of La Vuelta, as it has been present on the race nine straight times. Its only stage victory dates back to 2012, when Antonio Piedra triumphed atop Lagos de Covadonga. The sprinter Jon Aberasturi and the rouleur Gonzalo Serrano are their main options to extend this count, after coming quite close to delivering the second win of its history last year with three runner-up spots in different stages. Burgos BH was more fortunate, as it got a memorable victory with Ángel Madrazo in Javalambre on its maiden participation in 2019. “It won’t be easy to repeat that feat, but we are quite ambitious and will try our best with a squad full of courageous riders,” says DS Rubén Pérez.
A FIRST FOR ISRAEL START-UP NATION
On its maiden season as a UCI WorldTeam, Israel Start-Up Nation is making this Tuesday its debut on the sole Grand Tour it is yet to contend. The stage win of Alex Dowsett in the Giro d’Italia has spurred the mood of the Israeli team, which enters La Vuelta 20 with quite an international line-up: eight riders from seven different countries… and none of them from Spain! There will be a Spaniard on the leading team car, though, as Óscar Guerrero is making his own debut at La Vuelta. “I’ve been a DS for more than 25 seasons already,” he explains. “I’ve worked in the youth ranks with Caja Rural, and in the pro ranks with Kaiku, Fuerteventura, Contentpolis-AMPO and Euskaltel-Euskadi… But I have never done La Vuelta as a DS. This is quite a exciting occasion for me!” Team-wise, Guerrero says: “We have a pretty balanced line-up, with a fast sprinter like Mihkel Räim, a solid GC leader like Dan Martin and several young riders to help them while gaining experience. Above all, we are keen on racing here, and that’s key at this time of the season.”