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2011 Vuelta a España preview: Antón a top favorite among those who want to see red in Madrid

  • By Andrew Hood
  • Published Aug. 18, 2011

Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC)

Menchov had a disappointing Giro. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com

Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) starts as the only former Vuelta winner in the fold. With two victories on his palmares, the veteran Russian could be the man to beat if he’s back in fighting form. He clearly wasn’t at his best fitness during May’s Giro d’Italia, when he never truly challenged for the podium, but Menchov says he’s ready to fight for it all.

Menchov didn’t race the Tour de France this year after his team was not selected, so he comes into the Vuelta doubly-motivated to make up for what’s been a somewhat lackluster season for the usually consistent performer.

“After the Giro d’Italia I underwent an accurate training regimen to prepare for the Vuelta, to get here in the best possible shape,” Menchov said. “This is a race I really love, and in which I’ve already obtained two prestigious victories; of course, I’m starting out with the objective of obtaining the maximum result, although it won’t be easy. The route is grueling and I’ll be going up against some very competitive rivals. Fortunately, I’ll be able to count on the support of some excellent riders. I think our squad is well equipped to put in a good race.”

For Geox-TMC, this year’s Vuelta is its big race of the year, and it’s bringing all of its firepower to Benidorm. Carlos Sastre — a former Vuelta podium man himself and Tour winner — will be the team’s second GC option, but Fabio Duarte and Juanma Cobo will also be very strong for the team.

  • Pros: Experience, time trialing
  • Cons: Too many explosive finales in parcours

If Menchov can take important gains in Salamanca, he could ride to protect a lead all the way to Madrid. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially if the attacks are coming from all quarters. Menchov has the experience and tactical sense to win this Vuelta, but the real question remains which Menchov will show up: the one who rode to third in the 2010 Tour or the Menchov who struggled in May?

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Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood has covered every Tour de France since 1996 and has been VeloNews' European correspondent since 2002.

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