Team Columbia believe powerful German sprinter Andre Greipel can help continue their impressive 2009 season once the Tour of Spain clicks into gear this Saturday.
Mark Cavendish’s stunning haul of six stage wins from this year’s Tour de France took his tally to 10 from the last two participation — and was the highlight of a hugely successful season for the American outfit so far.
With the Isle of Man rider not taking part in the ‘Vuelta’ – as the three-week race is known – all eyes will be on fellow sprinter Greipel to see whether he can continue their impressive winning streak this season.
But far from taking aim at the bunch sprints on the flatter finishes, Columbia want to challenge for the overall victory and in the race’s time trials.
As well as Greipel, who has claimed 15 victories so far in 2009, Columbia will look to reigning world time trial champion Bert Grabsch, and to Kim Kirchen for a top finish in the race for the leader’s gold jersey.
“The aim is essentially to shine on every kind of terrain,” said Columbia sports director Brian Holm.
“Kim is very motivated to take a strong result in the overall classification. His start to the season was all but ruined by injuries so he’s really aiming to have a good end to the year.
“Andre is always ambitious in the sprints, you just have to look at his results to see that. And Bert (Grabsch) already knows what it takes to win in the Vuelta. He won a time trial stage there back in 2007, and he’s in good shape again.”
Also riding for Columbia will be Michael Albasini, and Australian Adam Hansen, who missed the Tour de France in July.
The Tour of Spain begins Saturday in Assen, the Netherlands with a 4.5km time trial and finishes in Madrid on September 20.
As well as featuring two other time trials which are longer, the race features five mountain top finishes and they are likely to determine the overall victory.
Columbia team for Tour of Spain:
Michael Albasini (SUI), Andre Greipel (GER), Bert Grabsch (GER), Adam
Hansen (AUS), Greg Henderson (NZL), Kim Kirchen (LUX), Frantisek Rabon (CZE),
Vicente Reynes (ESP), Marcel Sieberg (GER)