Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vuelta a Castilla y Leon: The Contenders

Following on from yesterdays article, the final startlist for this years Vuelta a Castilla y Leon has been released and at a glance the field does not look as strong as in previous years. This is probably down to the clash with the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday - one of the big hilly spring classics - and some top pros who were not so suited to the cobbles of Flanders or Roubaix will be looking to bag a victory there, fortunately though, there is still some very big names lining up at the start of the Castilla on Friday that will want to cast a shadow over Jon Tiernan-Lockes chances...


Number one on this list is Radioshack-Nissan rider Andreas Kloden who will be looking to build his form ahead of this years Tour de France - a race in which Kloden has twice finished second in 2004 and 2006, which clearly shows the caliber of the man. At 36 years of age, he is no spring chicken, but don't be fooled, Kloden is a strong climber and was touted as a favourite for last years Tour de France in which he crashed out alongside Bradley Wiggins. We will never know if Kloden could have won last years tour, but he was going into it with great form after winning the overall in the Tour of The Basque Country and placing second at Paris-Nice. Anybody who thinks Kloden will be easy to shake will have to think twice.

Next on the list is Movistar rider and current 2011 Vuelta a Espana winner Juan Jose Cobo. His grand tour win came as a surprise last year but he's not a new rider, in fact he's been around quite a while previously winning stages at the Tour de France and finishing 3rd overall in the Castilla back in 2007. We saw exactly what he was capable as he battled with Froome to the bitter end last year.

Luis Leon Sanchez will be another big contender, riding for Rabobank and a Time Trial specialist he has also improved his climbing in recent years - a good thing as the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon is missing a time trial. His palmares include winning the 2009 Paris-Nice stage race and placing in the top 10 overall for both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in 2010. He look's in decent form aswell with a recent stage victory in this years Paris-Nice.

Other names that may feature in this race are Mikel Nieve who will be riding for Euskaltel-Euskadi, a previous winner of stages in the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, a strong climber touted as a future GC contender and Stefano Garzelli riding for Acqua & Sapone, a very capable climber who won last years Mountain Classification Jersey in the Giro d'Italia

It's clear that Jon Tiernan-Locke will have a fight on his hands but he is in a unique position - a rider currently racing at Continental Level, two tiers below WorldTour, faced with the very realistic prospect of riding with one of the worlds biggest teams next year thanks to his early season performances, this race provides a chance to showcase his talents amongst the best, with absolutely nothing to lose.

The full startlist of riders can be found HERE.

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