Fabio Aru leads UAE Team Emirates charge at Vuelta a Espana
Italian won the 2015 race and is aiming to put his injury-hit season behind with a strong showing in Spain
Fabio Aru will bid for his second Vuelta a Espana general classification title after being named in the UAE Team Emirates line-up for the final grand tour of the season.
Aru, 29, is joined in the eight-rider team by fellow Italians Valerio Conti, Oliviero Troia and Marco Marcato, Colombian pair Sergio Henao and Juan Sebastian Molano, and Slovenian all-rounder Tadej Pogacar, who is making his grand tour debut. The UAE Team Emirates sprint threat will be led by Colombian star Fernando Gaviria.
Aru has had bad luck with injury since joining the team in 2018, and underwent surgery earlier this year on a leg injury. However, the Italian completed the Tour de France in July and placed 14th in the general classification standings.
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"As always, the Vuelta a Espana represents an important and stimulating challenge, both in terms of the route and the quality of the start list," the 2015 Vuelta champion said. "I'm excited and ready to race, especially since the operation I had four months ago. The goal is to compete at high level but also to be consistent.”
Gaviria will be making his Vuelta debut, but has enjoyed success at the other two grand tours. The 25-year-old Colombian has won two stages at the Tour de France and won the points classification title at the 2017 Giro d'Italia.
"I am happy to make my debut in an important race like the Vuelta, the only grand tour I have never participated in," Gaviria said. "There aren't many stages for the sprinters, and we will have to take our chances when we can - this is what makes the Vuelta even more challenging and stimulating.”
Pogacar's debut comes as reward for a fine season. The 20-year-old Slovenian has won youth classification titles at the Tour Down Under, Volta ao Algarve, Itzulia Basque Country and Tour of Slovenia.
His best results came at the Tour of California - the only top-level World Tour event in the United States - where he won the youth title and placed fourth in the general classification.
"I am really excited to be able to participate in my first grand tour, I can't wait to be on the starting ramp of the team time trial and start this new challenge," Pogacar said.
"I will be in Spain with the aim of learning as much as possible, understanding how to move in the bunch in such an important race and how to manage it over the three weeks. It's the only way I can start building something good for the next few years."
The 2019 Vuelta a Espana, which starts on Saturday and concludes on September 15, will be raced over 21 stages, beginning with a team time trial in Torrevieja. Along the way there are six flat stages, a 36.2km individual time trial, four hilly stages, and nine mountain stages – eight of which feature summit finishes.
Updated: August 20, 2019 08:31 PM