The Vuelta a España kicks off Saturday in Málaga, Spain, and Team Sunweb rolls into the final grand tour of the season with a strong squad set up to contest the sprint stages and explore the possibilities of a high finish in the general classification.
German Max Walscheid is the team’s designated sprinter. The 25-year-old will aim for a result at his first-ever grand tour. Phil Bauhaus was originally slotted to be the team’s lead sprinter, but is unable to start due to a virus.
“It’s too bad for Phil, who was our designated sprinter for the Vuelta, but with Max we have a strong replacement so we can continue our sprint focus,” said Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek. “It will be the first grand tour for Max, a new experience for him in a challenging environment, also for his long-term development. We will go for it and give it our all.”
In addition to going for the sprints, the team will also ride in support of all-rounder Wilco Kelderman, who is returning from injury. The 27-year-old Dutch rider finished fourth overall in last year’s Vuelta, and has shown an ability to compete with the best GC riders in the world. He was also fifth overall at this year’s Tour de Suisse before a shoulder injury from a crash at the Dutch National Championships spoiled his chances to race the Tour de France in July.
“We’re very pleased to have Wilco at the start, which could be considered a small miracle after another difficult period recovering from a complicated injury,” said Visbeek. “He has worked hard to come back, but we don’t know how stable his level will be throughout three weeks of racing. We’ll have to take a day-by-day approach with the aim to keep him in the GC and see where he stands going into the third week.”
In addition to Walscheid and Kelderman, the team has a mix of veterans and young riders. In all, four riders are making their grand tour debut: Walscheid, Jai Hindley, Michael Storer and Martijn Tusveld.
“Racing the Vuelta will be great for their long-term development, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they do with the opportunity,” Visbeek said.
Riders will have their choice of Giant bikes, including the TCR Advanced SL all-rounder for mountain and intermediate stages, the Propel Advanced SL Disc for key sprinters on flat stages, and the Trinity Advanced Pro TT bike for two time trials, Stage 1 and Stage 16.
The bikes are built up with Giant Contact SLR saddles and Giant Contact SLR cockpit components, and riders are also using prototype wheels, currently labeled #overachieve, being developed by Giant for key stages. Beyond the bikes, riders will also wear Giant helmets, including the lightweight Rev and aero Pursuit for road stages and the Rivet TT for time trials, as well as prototype Giant shoes for certain stages.
Here’s the full lineup for Team Sunweb’s 2018 Vuelta a España squad:
Simon Geschke (GER)
Jai Hindley (AUS)
Johannes Fröhlinger (GER)
Wilco Kelderman (NED)
Michael Storer (AUS)
Mike Teunissen (NED)
Martijn Tusveld (NED)
Max Walscheid (GER)
Follow Team Sunweb at www.teamsunweb.com.