Portal poised for Vuelta
Strong team raring to go
Last Updated: 19/08/12 6:08pm
Portal: On DS duty in Spain
On the eve of the Vuelta a Espana we caught up with Team Sky Sports Director Nicolas Portal for his thoughts ahead of the Grand Tour.
With the squad situated in Pamplona ahead of Saturday evening’s team time trial, spirits are high in the camp as the team return to a race which saw them excel last season.
The 2012 edition of the Vuelta is particularly gruelling with numerous mountaintop finishes as the race criss-crosses northern Spain.
The Frenchman swapped the peloton for the team car in 2011 and will make his Grand Tour lead DS debut in Spain.
Understandably the Frenchman is raring to go with such a strong team of riders under his wing.
Strength in depths
“It’s a very strong team,” said Portal. “We have Olympic medallists, amazing climbers, some really strong guys on the flat and a very quick sprinter. It is really exciting to go into the race with this group of guys.
“We saw Froomey improved as the Tour de France went on and in the final week he was getting stronger and stronger. So I feel that with his high capacity for recovery he will be in good form here. With less than a month between the Tour and the Vuelta I think he will be ready. This race is a goal for him and we have the team to give him the best possible chance.
“We saw Rigoberto and Sergio have a really good Giro a couple of months ago. Ian and Danny are so strong and we know Swifty has the speed to win the sprints. He also knows how to do a job for the team if we are in a strong position on GC.
“Zandio knows the Vuelta and Flecha has a huge amount of experience - he will be a great captain on the flat. Richie is important as he has a good bond with Froomey after they rode together in July.
“It is very exciting to be here with this team.”
Key to replicating the success of last season’s Vuelta, and the more recent Tour de France, is the team displaying the same level of teamwork and unity.
“Every rider knows what they need to do,” Portal continued. “The level here will be extremely high and there’s no doubt it will be a huge fight.
“We have Alberto Contador here. We don’t know exactly where his form will be but he certainly looks to be going well. There is also Joaquim Rodriguez who finished second at the Giro. The Vuelta is also good for him as there is a mountainous time trial. We also have a lot of uphill finishes with bonifications. So it will be a really exciting race between quite a few teams.
“The first week we have four summit finishes and a team time trial. We need to be ready for the first week as, if you lose time there, it will be really hard to come back. Usually there would be one big day during the first week you would maybe get one big day but this year it is on another level. The second half of the race is very hard and we have to maintain our strength through that.”