Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bring on the Vuelta

The Vuelta is less than 24 hours away, so it's high time for a short round-up of news and predictions as the team embark on one of its biggest goals of the year.

Euskaltel will depart the start ramp in Pamplona at 19:59 CET Saturday evening, and will hope to limit their losses in the 16,5km team time trial. Euskaltel came in 12th out of 22 teams last year, while they ended up 13th the year prior. If they can avoid ceding more than 45 seconds to the teams of overall favourites Contador, Froome and Rodríguez, Antón should be happy with the day's work. Euskaltel will get going four minutes after Astana, while Lotto-Belisol will be the team chasing the riders in orange. Caja Rural kicks off the 2012 edition in their home town at 19:03, while Movistar, the team of defending champion Juanjo Cobo, are last off at 20:27.

Click here for the start times. 

The bib numbers have been made official, and Cobo will naturally get to don the number one bib in a GT for the very first time. Euskaltel get numbers 71 through 79, with the team leader Antón, as per tradition, getting the 71:
  • 71 - Igor Antón
  • 72 - Mikel Astarloza
  • 73 - Mikel Landa
  • 74 - Juan José Oroz
  • 75 - Rubén Pérez
  • 76 - Romain Sicard
  • 77 - Amets Txurruka
  • 78 - Iván Velasco
  • 79 - Gorka Verdugo

Romain Sicard will get a belated and much-longed for Grand Tour debut tomorrow, the once-promising Frenchman having to pass up on the Vuelta last year due to his well-documented injury problems. He's been showing solid, if totally unspectacular form, in the lead-up, and is therefore flying under the radar somewhat. He'll be charged with taking care of Antón and lending a hand in the mountains, but might just, if the stars align, show what he's made of and surprise the many experts that have already written him off. He's still only 24 remember, so he might still have a bright future ahead of him. Read what the Hasparren-native had to say on the eve of the race here

Igor Antón is naturally the centre of attention ahead of the race, with many predicting him for a podium place overall. Antón dropped the Giro this year to channel all his energies on his home GT, and arrives in Pamplona with 46 days of racing in his legs (if my own calculations are correct). In the weeks leading up to the race he's said he'll be more than happy with a top three overall. In an interesting interview with Alain Laiseka in Noticias de Álava, Antón reiterates his top three target and says he's happy Alberto Contador will be present. Check out the interview here

In an in-depth talk with the guys over at Cobbles and Hills, Antón admits the season so far hasn't been up to much, but that he's hoping to turn it around starting tomorrow. Read it here

Speaking of Antón, he reconnoitered the team time trial course with his team-mates today, spending a total of three hours on the bike before attending the team presentations at the Plaza del Castello in downtown Pamplona just a few hours ago. The traffic wasn't closed off though, so it was hardly ideal, but at least they will have gotten a feel for it.

The final outcome

As far as predictions go, trying to imagine what Antón will be up to is always like trying to understand the UCI's different points rules - i.e. it can't be done. I'll give it a shot nonetheless though at predicting the final top ten. Here goes:
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Joaquim Rodríguez
  3. Igor Antón
  4. Chris Froome
  5. Roberto Gesink
  6. Andrew Talansky
  7. Beñat Intxausti
  8. Nairo Quintana
  9. Juan José Cobo
  10. Mikel Landa
Who's your favourite for the GC?


Josh Buehner said...

The greatest 3 weeks of the year!! Obviously in addition to Fuji, I'm really anxious to see how Sicard goes.

Zorte on Cracks! NO crashes this year!

1. Bert.
2. De Gendt
3. Igor

(Froome implodes)

Stephen said...

Top ten for Landa?

Well, he has the talent and he has earned the teams support if Anton falters.

This should be a great tour, big names and a good course, can't wait!

Colin said...

really lookin forward to the next 3weeks

come on the team in orange!!!!!!


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