The 2018 Vuelta a España begins this Saturday in Malaga, Spain. It’s anticipated to be another difficult edition, with nine summit finishes — six of those coming over eight stages during the Vuelta’s second half — and two individual time trials. There are six flat stages and four mid-mountain days as well. But the numbers alone don’t do the challenge justice.
As EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale head Vuelta sport director Juanma Garate notes, “It’s a hard Vuelta without many opportunities for the sprinters. Lots of technical, narrow roads. Flat stages, on paper, all of them have an area of wind. It’s important to ride with focus. We can’t ride in the back and relax. There’s no time for that. We need to focus every day from day one one.”
In keeping with the usual #PinkArgyle Grand Tour tradition, find comments from each of our Vuelta riders and Garate on each rider’s selection, below.
RIGOBERTO URAN (COL)
Garate says: Rigo is our leader and will contest the general classification. We have the space to show how good he is and how good we are with this team at the Vuelta.
Uran says: This team is really strong for this Vuelta. I have strong guys for the climbing days, guys for the flat stages and guys for the wind. I’m really happy with the team for this Vuelta, and I believe we can do something special
Uran’s best Vuelta memory: I have always good memories in all my race. Always I enjoy every day and every race.
Garate says: He’s in good shape at the moment. He showed that at Utah. Mike is an important piece for our strategy with Rigo and also to contest stages with an uphill finals. One those steep, short climbs, Mike is a specialist.
Woods says: After crashing at Tour of Utah, and having the wound get infected, I’ve had to adjust my expectations. I’m not ruling out any possibilities, but based off of how I have been feeling over the past week, I am going to try and play things safe over week one and build from there. With the length of a Grand Tour, anything is possible. If I can come around, my goals will be to target a stage win in week three and do whatever I can to help Rigo in his general classification pursuits. We’re bringing a team with a lot of talent to this year’s race, and with Rigo motivated for the GC, I expect to see lots of pink at the front of the race.
Woods’ best Vuelta memory: Stage nine last year. The day before we had been informed that the team would likely not continue. Instead of being this disjointed and depressed unit, the team really came on stage nine to ride a great race. I managed to finish third on the stage, which was one of my best results in my career at that point, and I experienced a huge range of emotions after the finish line, however, as I rode back to the team bus the most dominant feeling was pride. I was proud of how we rode as a team and with how we handled the tough news.
DANI MORENO (ESP)
Garate says: Dani Moreno has the most experience in the Vuelta on our roster. I expect him, as he’s done in the past, to be close to his leader. He’s a confidence man. He speaks the same language as Rigo. That’s important.
Moreno says: I hope to be where I’ve always been – at the front with the best. Luck and focus will be the two most important factors. We’ve already done the hard work to get it right.
Moreno’s best Vuelta memory: I have many good Vuelta memories. The two that stand out most are the day I set myself up as a leader in in Valdepeñas de Jaén and the victory I took in Finisterre in front of Cancellara. Nobody expected that one – except for me!
PIERRE ROLLAND (FRA)
Garate says: When he is good and when he is motivated, we know Pierre is able to do really great things, especially in the mountains. And here at the Vuelta, same as Mike, we can use him strategically on the mountain stages.
Rolland says: My main personal objective is to win a stage, so that I can add my name to the list of riders that have won a stage at each of the three Grand Tours. I will race offensively when the route is good for my strengths. I leave the team at the end of this season, and I would really like to finish my story with EF in the most beautiful way.
Rolland’s best Vuelta memory: My best memory is always the arrival in Madrid. The Vuelta is such a difficult race, and the finish is always a happy experience.
SIMON CLARKE (AUS)
Garate says: He’s done a lot of races with Rigo, and Rigo has a lot of confidence in Simon. He’s going to be his shadow, all day long. For me, it’s important to have Simon because I know when he’s there, he keeps us out of trouble.
Clarke says: After the Tour de France and our misfortune with Rigo, we’re all jumping at the bit to have another crack at what we weren’t able to achieve in July at the Tour.
Clarke’s best Vuelta memory: My first Vuelta in 2012 when I was able to win a stage and take the polka dot jersey overall. That was a special Vuelta for me.
MITCH DOCKER (AUS)
Garate says: Mitch is going to be my road captain. I’m super happy with how he does the job. His condition is good, he’s very professional. His post-stage analysis is really good. In the debriefs, we can fix our mistakes, because the point of view he has is really good.
Docker says: I’m expecting big things from the team in this Vuelta. It felt like we’re on the cusp of a great result in the Giro, had some bad luck in the Tour and now its our turn. We have a really solid team of experienced riders. Personally I’m looking forward to working with Rigo for the first time and with Mike again after the Giro. No doubt Tom and I will have some fun in the flatter stages too.
Docker’s best Vuelta memory: Groveling across the line up the Bola del Mondo in 2012 to officially finish off the suffering of my first Vuelta and my first Grand Tour. It was such a sense of accomplishment.
TOM VAN ASBROECK (BEL)
Garate says: He’s our fast man, the man who will try to do a few finals. He knows he’s here to help the team, but he will have his opportunities. He will have several opportunities if he can climb as well as he did at BinckBank last week. The last hour of the race is always hilly —so there are opportunities for reduced sprints.
Van Asbroeck says: I want to some nice results in the sprints, maybe even win. You never know. My condition and preparation have been excellent so far, so everything is possible. The team will be competitive in the general classification and the mountain stages, so this will only motivate me more for the sprints.
Van Asbroeck’s best Vuelta memory: When we finish the Vuelta and have a great dinner with the team and our family after a successful three weeks of racing at the highest level, that’s always the best.
SEBASTIAN LANGEVELD (NLD)
Garate says: Sebas will be in a role similar to Simon. Langeveld, Simon and Mitch should work really well together for positioning throughout the Vuelta and in taking care of the train for the faster finishes for Tom and our general classification efforts.
Langeveld says: With Rigo targeting the GC, there’s always a lot of unseen work to do. Besides helping the team as much as I can, I would like to do a consistently solid three-week performance.
Langeveld’s best Vuelta memory: My best memory is definitely winning the Vuelta with Denis Menchov in 2007.
EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Vuelta a España:
Juan Manual Garate (ESP)
Fabrizio Guidi (ITA)
Simon Clarke (AUS)
Mitch Docker (AUS)
Sebastian Langeveld (NLD)
Dani Moreno (ESP)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)
Mike Woods (CAN)