Our team will be looking for opportunities to leave its mark on a race renowned for its brutal parcours.
The 71st Vuelta a España will kick-off in a few days, with the riders set to tackle yet again a mountainous route, which includes no less than 10 uphill finishes that are almost guaranteed to produce fireworks. Galicia welcomes the peloton on the inaugural day, when the teams will face a 27.8-km long time trial, which is sure to create some significant margins between the general classification contenders, while Madrid will host the final stage, giving the sprinters one of the few opportunities to take center stage at this edition.
Between these, the third Grand Tour of the year will be jammed with tough and spectacular climbs, such as Mirador del Ezaro, Peña Cabarga, Lagos de Covadonga, La Camperona or Col d'Aubisque (16.5 km at an average gradient of 7.1%), which will see the riders cross the border to France for the queen-stage of the race. Another important role in the outcome is expected to be played by the individual time trial scheduled on the last Friday (Xabia–Calpe, 37 kilometers), which comes just before Alto de Aitana, the final summit arrival of the Vuelta.
Etixx – Quick-Step – already victorious in five Grand Tour stages this year – heads into the Spanish event with a solid and versatile squad, which will be led by Giro d'Italia stage winner and maglia rosa wearer Gianluca Brambilla. While the 28-year-old Italian, 13th in last year's Vuelta a España, will eye the mountain stages to shine, Gianni Meersman, who underlined his strong form earlier this month at the Vuelta a Burgos, will be ready to get in the mix in the stages expected to end up in a bunch sprint.
Two formidable attackers, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra will also pin on a race number as they will look for a chance to get a good result in a race which acted as the scene of their Grand Tour debut several years ago. Joining them will be Yves Lampaert – a Grand Tour rookie – David De La Cruz, who will be hoping to come into the spotlight on the savage climbs of his home race, Maxime Bouet, Pieter Serry and Martin Velits, all vital and strong riders who will play an important role in the team during the three weeks of La Vuelta, which this year covers more than 3300 kilometers and 51 classified ascents.
"We have an aggressive squad, capable of shining on every type of terrain. It's a very hard Vuelta a España, but it's been like that for years, and we are aware of what lies ahead of us. Just like at the previous edition, we will go to the attack and try to get some nice results. We will have a different plan for every stage and hopefully we will get rewarded for our hard work and determination", said sport director Rik van Slycke, who'll accompany the team from the car.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele