Team Sky have confirmed their squad for the 67th edition of the Vuelta a Espana, which commences in Pamplona on Saturday 18 August.
Chris Froome will lead the team after his second-placed finish at the Tour de France and bronze medal-winning performance for Great Britain at the Olympic Games. The 27 year old will be looking to improve upon his second-placed finish in last year’s Vuelta, where he finished one place ahead of team-mate Bradley Wiggins.
Froome will be joined in an incredibly strong nine-man squad by Juan Antonio Flecha, Sergio Henao, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Rigoberto Urán and Xabier Zandio.
Rigoberto Urán already has a top-10 Grand Tour finish to his name this season, winning the young rider’s classification on his way to a career-best seventh overall in May’s Giro d’Italia.
The Olympic road race silver medallist will provide key support to Froome in the mountains along with Colombian compatriot Sergio Henao, who has wrapped up podium positions in his last two races (the Vuelta a Burgos and Tour de Pologne) and also donned the Giro’s white jersey in a remarkable first season in the pro ranks.
Australia’s Richie Porte – the reigning Volta ao Algarve champion who also played an integral part in Team Sky’s historic Tour de France victory and preceding campaign – will be another invaluable asset to Froome in the mountains, along with Spaniard Xabier Zandio, who brings great experience to his home Grand Tour.
Fellow Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha – riding his 17th Grand Tour - has all the qualities required of a road captain, with British national champion Ian Stannard and America’s Danny Pate possessing the horsepower to help the team on both the flats and climbs.
Brit Ben Swift is the team’s designated sprinter and heads into the race in fine form having taken a brace of victories at the recent Tour de Pologne.
On the line-up, Sports Director Nicolas Portal said: “We’ve got every base covered with this line up. We have Olympic medallists, amazing climbers, some really strong guys on the flat, and a very fast sprinter.
“Every rider knows their role and they will need to be alert from the very first stage as the level of competition is so high.
“With Froomey, we saw how he improved as the Tour de France went on and he will be very strong here again. This race is a major goal for him and we have the team to give him the best possible chance of success.”
Chris Froome said: “It’s always been my plan to ride the Vuelta. I’ll be going into the race as team leader but that’s not to say we don’t have other guys who can be right up there on the GC. Rigoberto and Sergio both have huge potential, and Richie is another guy who could shine.
“I’m going to do the best job I can and do whatever’s required of me from the team. Initially I’ll be riding for the GC, but if one of my team-mates shows that they’re in a better place to win the race then I’ll happily work for them. We’re sending a first-rate squad and it should be a really exciting race.”
Raring to go
Ben Swift said: “We’ve got a strong and well-balanced team going to the Vuelta. There are a lot of guys there to support Froomey in the mountains and I’m expecting him to have a really good race. He’s been unbelievable this season and I’m sure he’ll be able to continue that form and challenge for the top step on the podium.
“I’m really excited about being the team’s main sprinter. There should be plenty of opportunities for me and I’ll be doing my best to get my first Grand Tour stage win.”
Rigoberto Urán said: “This is a really strong team. Everyone is in form and we have a great chance of replicating our success of last year.
“Froomey is looking in great form and I’ve also had a good preparation for this race, so I am excited to get started.
“The route is very mountainous and there are plenty of summit finishes which will suit mine and Froomey’s styles. There should be plenty of chances to show what I can do and I’ll also be there to help the team as much as possible.”