Wiggins leads Team Sky in Spain

Brailsford looking to build on successful season

Last Updated: 16/08/11 8:36pm

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Wiggins: Leads Team Sky's squad for the final Grand Tour of the 2011 season

Wiggins: Leads Team Sky's squad for the final Grand Tour of the 2011 season

Sky Bet

Team Sky has announced its nine-man line-up for the 66th edition of the Vuelta a Espana, starting on Saturday in Benidorm.

Bradley Wiggins, who was forced to abandon the Tour de France last month with a broken collarbone, will make his return in the race and lead a squad which includes fellow Brits Chris Froome and Ian Stannard.

Talented Swede Thomas Löfkvist - who led the team’s General Classification hopes at the Giro d’Italia - will provide Wiggins with key support in the mountains, as will Italian duo Dario Cioni and Morris Possoni, and the experienced Spaniard Xabier Zandio.

Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne winner Chris Sutton will head up the team’s sprint charge, while 10-time Grand Tour veteran Kurt-Asle Arvesen rounds off a talented and versatile squad.

Dave Brailsford, Team Sky Principal, commented: "Everyone was pleased with the team’s performance at the Tour de France and we will be looking to continue racing in the same way at the Vuelta a Espana.

"Having Bradley back has reinvigorated us all. He will lead the team and has recovered and trained well since his operation, but the fact he hasn’t been able to race for seven weeks means we will have to take things day by day.

"Bradley has three hugely-experienced riders there to support him in Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Dario Cioni and Xabier Zandio, while Thomas Löfkvist is also a veteran of nine Grand Tours despite his relatively young age.

"Chris Froome and Ian Stannard’s inclusion demonstrates once again the depth of British talent we have in the squad, while Morris Possoni and Chris Sutton have also impressed us again this season with their respective climbing and sprint capabilities."

Brasilford also stressed that the return to Spain would be an emotional one for the whole team, explaining: "Our debut in the race was cut short last year by the tragic death of our carer Txema González and the penultimate stage which ends in his home town of Vitoria will be a particularly difficult day for everyone involved.

"While Txema will forever be in our thoughts, this year’s race should help aid the healing process though and allow people to focus on the future."

Great support

Wiggins will be riding in the Vuelta for the first time and can't wait to get back in action, saying: "I’m looking forward to making my return at the Vuelta a Espana. It’s a race I haven’t ridden before so it’ll be exciting to take part in and I want to produce a strong performance for all those people who have supported me since my crash at the Tour de France.

"The level of encouragement I’ve received has been overwhelming and I’d like to do everyone proud. I have a great team here to support me and it should be a really exciting three weeks of racing."

Stannard, who won his first race as a pro earlier this season, will be one of Wiggins' key helpers and he commented: "We have a strong team here and everyone will give Bradley the best possible support to ensure he produces a good ride.

"It’s going to be exciting to see how things go for him and I’m really happy to be taking part because it gets another Grand Tour in my legs and that should help in terms of the Classics next year."

Rider profiles:

Kurt-Asle Arvesen
One of the most hard-working and experienced domestiques in the peloton. He helped Simon Gerrans and Chris Sutton achieve their respective victories at the Tour of Denmark and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne earlier in the season while also aiding further stage victories at the Tours of Austria, Luxembourg and California.

Dario Cioni
A veteran of 18 Grand Tours who achieved his highest-placed race result for Team Sky at the Tour of Denmark this month (sixth). Cioni is a climbing specialist whose knowledge will be a massive benefit to everyone on the team.

Chris Froome
A versatile rider who packs a mean punch in both the mountains and time trials. Froome has already claimed top-10 finishes at the Tours of Switzerland, Romandie and Castilla y Leon this season.

Thomas Lofkvist
Illness might have hampered his Giro d’Italia ambitions but Löfkvist battled back to peak condition over the summer and was instrumental in guiding Peter Kennaugh to his fifth-placed finish at the Tour of Poland this month. Despite being just 27 years old, Löfkvist has already notched up nine Grand Tours.

Morris Possoni
Another rider who is a highly adept climber, Possoni has enjoyed a fantastic summer with top-10 finishes at both the Brixia Tour and Tour of Austria. He could be one of the team’s key domestiques when the race hits the mountains.

Ian Stannard
Although the Spring Classics are his speciality, Stannard transforms into one of the sport’s strongest rouleurs when the summer months hit. One of three Brits in the squad, Stannard is also a fine breakaway rider and wrapped up his first professional victory last month at the Tour of Austria.

Chris Sutton
The only out-and-out sprinter in the squad. Two victories to his name last season, Sutton followed those up with a fine triumph at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and two top-five finishes at the Tour of Austria suggest he is coming good again.

Bradley Wiggins
Although Wiggins was forced to abandon the Tour de France with a broken collarbone, he has recovered quickly and maintained the form which saw him win the Criterium du Dauphine.

Xabier Zandio
The only Spanish rider in the team, Zandio will be making his fifth appearance in his home tour. Since his arrival at the start of the season, Zandio has quickly become renowned as one of the team’s strongest climbing domestiques and will have good legs after completing the Tour de France last month.

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