Team Astana Announces 2008 Vuelta a Espana Line-Up
Contador and Leipheimer look set to go for the overall win.
Astana cycling team General Manager Johan Bruyneel and Sports Director Alain Gallopin earlier today announced the names of the nine riders who will participate in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana / Tour of Spain, starting this Saturday, August 30th, in Granada, Spain.
The nine riders are Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden, Assan Bazayev, Dmitriy Muravyev, Benjamín Noval, Sérgio Paulinho, José Luis Rubiera and Tomas Vaitkus. Daniel Navarro is the team's backup in case they need to swap riders because of injury or illness.
The team will be lead by team directors Alain Gallopin and Viatcheslav Ekimov with Johan Bruyneel certainly contributing from the sideline if needed.
Team leader and 2007 Tour de France and 2008 Giro d'Italia winner Alberto Contador finds himself to be completely ready for the 2008 Vuelta and highligts the strength of the Astana Team by nominating teammate Levi Leipheimer to be one of his major competitors for the overall title. “I have been focused on this race for a number of months. I’ve spent time with the rest of the team and I feel that we are prepared and motivated for the next three weeks. I am better prepared than I was for the Tour of Italy. Mentally, but technically as well. Right now we’re not looking too far ahead, but our goal is to win another Grand Tour. Our sponsors have supported us throughout the entire season and I can’t think of a better way to thank them.”
“Since early in the season, we identified the Tour of Spain as a major Team goal. We’ve had an excellent season to date and our riders are extremely motivated to end in winning fashion. I think we’ve assembled a well-balanced team that can accomplish our final major goal of 2008. We have riders for the mountains and flat stages, as well as the experience of super champions like Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer.” commented Johan Bruyneel.
According to the team management it was very hard for the team to pick the nine riders to represent Team Astana in Spain. “It was not an easy choice, which really shows the strength of our team. We have a lot of talented riders on Team Astana, but Johan and I decided that certain intangibles, such as experience, were very important. This group knows what it takes to win the big races and I’m hopeful we can prove this in the next three weeks.” said Alain Gallopin.
The 2008 Tour of Spain will mark the end of a great Grand Tour career for veteran rider José Luis "Chechu" Rubiera who was a major help for Lance Arstrong in his many impressive quests for Tour de France success. Chechu told Roadcycling.com that “This will be my 20th and last Grand Tour. I am very grateful to all the riders, staff, sports directors and fans who have supported me throughout my entire career. It is a true honor to have had the opportunity to race for Johan, Lance and now Alberto. It has been a dream and I would love to complete my career with another Grand Tour victory." Chechu will exit pro cycling at the end of this season.
Astana team roster for the Tour of Spain (August 30th – September 21st, 2008):
Alberto Contador (25), Spain
Career Highlights: Winner Tour de France 2007 and Tour of Italy 2008.
Key Results in 2008: 1st Tour of Castilla y Leon (and two stage wins), 1st Tour of Basque Country (and one stage win), 1st Tour of Italy, 3rd Tour of Murcia, 4th 2008 Olympic Games Time Trial.
First start in Tour of Spain.
Levi Leipheimer (34), USA
Career Highlights: Bronze Medal Olympic Games Time Trial Beijing 2008, Four times top ten in Tour de France (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007), 3rd Place Tour de France (2007).
Key Results in 2008: 1st Tour of California (and stage win), 1st Cascade Cycling Classic (and stage win), 1st Clásica a los Puertos, 3rd 2008 Olympic Games Time Trial, 3rd Dauphiné Libéré (and stage win), 3rd Tour de Georgia, 18th Tour of Italy.
Third start in Tour of Spain (3rd in 2001, 58th in 2003).
Andreas Klöden (33), Germany
Career Highlights: Tour de France runner-up in 2004 and 2006, winner Paris-Nice (2000), Tour of Basque Country (2000), Tirreno-Adratico (2007) and Tour de Romandie (2008). Bronze Medal Olympic Games Sydney Road Race (2000).
Key Results in 2008: 1st Tour de Romandie, 2nd Tour de Suisse.
Fifth start in Tour of Spain (62nd in 1999, DNF in 1998, 2000 and 2002).
Assan Bazayev (27), Kazakhstan
Career Highlights: Sprinter, winner of stage in the Tour of Germany 2006.
Key Results in 2008: National Road Champion Kazakhstan, Winner Points Classification Presidential Tour of Turkey, 5th Tour of Luxemburg, Twice top 5 in stages of the Tour of Italy
Second start in Tour of Spain (98th in 2006).
Dmitriy Muravyev (28), Kazakhstan
Career Highlights: Three-time National Champion (Road 2002, Time Trial 2003 & 2005), Winner Ruban Granitier Breton 2003, 7th Tour of Flanders 2007.
Key Results 2008: 4th National Road Championship, 9th Tour of Belgium, 16th Tour of Flanders
First start in Tour of Spain.
Benjamín Noval (29), Spain
Career Highlights: Instrumental in three Tour de France victories (Alberto Contador 2007, Lance Armstrong 2004 and 2005).
Fourth start in Tour of Spain (DNF in 2002, 45th in 2003, 57th in 2005).
Sérgio Paulinho (28), Portugal
Career Highlights: Silver medalist in the 2004 Olympic Road Race Games in Athens, Good climber and Time Trialist
Key Result 2008: National Champion Time Trial
Third start in Tour of Spain (16th in 2006 with stage win, DNF in 2007).
José Luis Rubiera (34), Spain
Career Highlights: Rode on five of Lance Armstrong’s seven winning Tours de France teams. Starts in his 20th big Tour. Won two stages in the Tour of Italy
Key Result in 2008: Stage victory in Tour of Murcia
Eighth start in Tour of Spain (26th in 1998, 6th in 1999, 11th in 2000, 7th in 2001, 51st in 2002, 80th in 2003, 86th in 2007).
Tomas Vaitkus (26), Lithuania
Career Highlights: U23 World Champion Time Trial (2002), Stage victory Tour of Italy (2006), Four time National Champion (Road - 2004, 2008; Time Trial - 2003, 2004)
Key Results in 2008: National Champion Road Race, Stage Victory Tour of Algarve, 1st Campina Ronde van het Groene Hart, 2nd and 3rd in stages of the Tour of Burgos, 8th Volta ao Distrito de Santarem, 12th Three Days of De Panne
First start in Tour of Spain.