Basques are back, Burgos-BH discovers La Vuelta, Cofidis and Caja Rural-Seguros RGA know the drill: the four teams who were granted wild-cards for La Vuelta 2018 promise offensive cycling as they seek success between Malaga and Madrid.
Five years after the iconic jersey “naranjo” of Euskaltel Euskadi left the peloton, Basques are back at La Vuelta with Euskadi-Murias. “It’s a dream I’ve had since the team was built”, says Jon Ordiozola, who’s led the project since 2015 after participating in cycling’s biggest races as a rider and then a sports director with Euskaltel-Euskadi. “Here, cycling lives in a unique way and a project like Euskadi-Murias was the missing piece to come back to the forefront.”
Not only Euskadi is back at La Vuelta but the festivities are set to reach a climax during stage 17. Starting from Getxo, the peloton will travel through Bilbao on the way to an unprecedented and already dreaded finish at Balcón de Bizkaia. “It’s our queen stage”, Jon Odriozola announces. “It will be hard to get a result because it comes at the end of La Vuelta, our riders lack experience and will be tired, and everyone will be watching us because they know how important this is for us. A stage of La Vuelta in Bilbao, for a team named Euskadi, there are no words”.
In their first season after making the jump to Continental Pro, Euskadi-Murias have claimed six victories so far, with Enrique Sanz winning last week a stage at the Volta a Portugal. At La Vuelta, Jon Odriozola will rely on an “aggressive team fighting for stages. With Jon Aberasturi, I have strong hopes for stages finishing with a sprint. Mikel Bizkarra and Oscar Rodriguez can do good things in the mountain. And Edu Prades and the rest will aim the other stages.”

“La Vuelta is part of the identity of Cofidis, who is very involved in Spain”, so Christian Guiberteau wants from his rider “a cohesion and a behavior that will make us actors of the race. And then, the consequence of it, the icing on the cake, will be a stage victory and we’ll do everything to get it. We clearly have te tools to get that win, we have to believe it. But I also know it’s very difficult.”
One of the sports director’s cards will be Nacer Bouhanni. The French sprinter won two stages of La Vuelta in 2014 and hasn’t participated since 2015 (he abandoned during stage 8). “A gastroenteritis prevented Nacer from finishing the Tour of Poland”, Christian Guiberteau explains. “But he’s recovering well and should be in top shape for the start of La Vuelta, with stages that should suit him in the first week.”
“Nacer will have a lead-out man with him, and other teammates will offer additional support on occasions”, the sports director elaborates. “It’s not about having a full train, it’s very complicated at La Vuelta furthermore with climbs always throwing off the sprinters and their teams. La Vuelta is more for sprinters like Trentin (4 stage wins in 2017) than Kittel.”
In addition to Nacer Bouhanni, Christian Guiberteau will rely on a “dynamic squad. Jesús Herrada was very strong at the European championships and he will be very motivated at La Vuelta. There aren’t as many sprinters teams to control the race so it’s interesting to have someone in the breakaway.If it’s a sprint, so be it, but having someone in the break is important because you can also fight for the stage that way”.

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA will tackle their seventh participation at La Vuelta in a row with “a young and balanced team”, according to sports director Eugenio Goikoetxea. He’s set a goal for the team from Navarre, used to claiming success through long range attacks (stage victory at Lagos de Covadonga for Antonio Piedra in 2012, King of the Mountain victories for Luis Leon Sanchez in 2014 and Omar Fraile in 2015): “Be actors of the race on every terrain”.
“La Vuelta is the race that gets us inspired all year long”, Eugenio Goikoetxea says. “First we work hard to get the invitation, and then to arrive in the best conditions to offer a good outing. La Vuelta is a dream in itself. Our sponsors are Spanish companies and it is fundamental for us to look for reasons to rejoice every day.”
After David Arroyo’s departure, Sergio Pardilla will be the only rider over 30 years of age. “He will be our leader and captain”, says Eugenio Goikoetxea about the experienced climber, who’s already finished three times inside the top 20 of La Vuelta (15th in 2017, his best result). “We have Nelson Soto for sprints, he is really fast. A rider like Lluis Mas is more a stage hunter on all kind of routes.”

Burgos-BH also participates in La Vuelta in their first year as a Continental Pro team. “It’s our goal of the year”, sports director Jose Cabedo says. He hopes for better luck after a year marred with struggles, most notably the injuries of the two young talents Silvio Herklotz and Matvey Mamykin (the Russian has left the team at the beginning of the month). “We’ve suffered with injuries but since June we’ve been able to work well with the riders who will participate in La Vuelta”, Jose Cabedo explains. “We’ll be at our best.”
“We want to show we have the skills to be there”, he insists. Ahead of La Vuelta, Burgos-BH have signed the Dutch rider Jetse Bol. “He will be our reference”, his sports director establishes. “He’s had a very good La Vuelta last year. He led the virtual standings on two occasions and took part in breakaways that fought for the stage victory.”
Jose Cabedo also counts on riders like Diego Rubio (7th of the Oridizako Klasika) and Pablo Torres to “have our say in the breaks that can make it to the finish”. Finally, the Portugues José Mendes will bring his experience as a finisher of the five grand tours he participated in (22nd of La Vuelta in 2013). “We want to see what he can do in the mountains and if he can bring us a top 20 on general classification in our first Vuelta”, Jose Cabedo says.
Laura Cueto
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