Team NetApp-Endura and Íñigo Cuesta take a preperatory look at the Vuelta route through the Pyrenees and Asturias

Team News | 15.08.2013

With just two weeks to go until the start of their season’s highlight, Team NetApp-Endura took a preparatory look at the routes of what will be some of the most difficult stages during this year’s Vuelta, the final Grand Tour of the year. Along with Sports Director Alex Sans Vega, the climbers Leopold König, Jose Mendes, Iker Camaño Ortuzar and David de la Cruz rode some of the biggest challenges in the north of Spain in the run-up to the race. They received prominent support from former professional rider with Team Caja Rural and Cervèlo Test Team, Íñigo Cuesta, who was recently appointed Technical Director of the Vuelta a España.

In Asturias, the team rode up to the Alto Naranco, Pene Cabarga and Alto del l'Angliru in thick fog. In the Pyrenees, they took a look at the Coll de la Gallina and, with a detour into France, the Col de Peyresourde, which awaits the riders during stages 14 and 15. With 13 mountain top finishes, this year’s Vuelta will demand quite a bit from the riders from the very start.

The climb to L’Angliru will be the final part of this year’s queen's stage, which the organizers have saved until the last day before the lap of honour in Madrid. With an incline of as much as 23% over a distance of 13 kilometres -- and this after 20 stages -- the organisers are expecting an exciting race right up until to the end.

As a former professional rider, Íñigo Cuesta was able to give a unique insight into this year's race: “It’s a spectacular course that will deliver an interesting race, and the outcome will remain open until the final days.” He also admitted that the course best suits the true climbers. Not to mention good climbers who do well against the clock, as in addition to the team time trial during the first stage, the course will include an individual time trial during the 11th stage with a category 3 climb. “The riders will have to focus on the race 100% every day, because each individual stage comes with its own difficulties. The favorites for the general classification won't have a moment of rest." Íñigo Cuesta is assisting the young Team NetApp-Endura riders with advice based on his many years of experience, helping to prepare them as much as possible for the big challenges that lie ahead.

While scouting the route in the north, Team NetApp-Endura’s Sport Director Alex Sans Vega was able to obtain a detailed impression of how the race will unfold over the final days. For him, it’s clear that this will be a very difficult race. “I think the stage in Andorra and the next day in the Pyrenees will deliver the decision in terms of the general classification. But if the time margins among the upper rankings are a bit wider, we’ll see a very exciting race in Asturias.” Of course, the team is adjusting its line-up to the profile of the race. According to Sans Vega, Leopold König, David de la Cruz, Jose Mendes and, on a good day, Iker Camaño and Bartosz Huzarski will be able to fully bring their climbing strengths to bear during some stages. Íñigo Cuesta added that the route leaves room for an open race, and even riders other than the big favourites could make their mark. The complicated downhill sections, the wind and the anticipated heat suit some riders better than others, which means every stage represents an opportunity.

Leopold König can’t say for sure which stage will prove to be the deciding one in this year’s Vuelta. “The stages in the Pyrenees, the stage in Andorra, the final stage up to L’Angliru and even the individual time trial in Aragon are particular challenges for me.” Directly after the Dauphiné in June Leo König began training for his season highlight by competing in the Czech Cycling Tour which he also won, and after that he continued his training in the Dolomites in Italy. After a few days of rest, he flew to Spain with some of his team mates in order to take a look at the route and to train further. Last year, he was unable to take part in the Giro d’Italia due to back problems, so the Vuelta will be his first Grand Tour. The biggest goal he is setting for himself is a stage win, but he’ll take the race day by day and is especially keen on gathering as much experience as possible.

Except for Iker Camaño, Team NetApp-Endura's three climbers are still rookies when it comes to a three-week tour. But maybe it’s a good thing not knowing what one will be facing. Obtaining experience is therefore Alex Sans Vega's top priority. Yet he is still laying down some clear objectives. “These riders are important for the future. They should lead the team in big races. We have to work hard and with a lot of commitment for a stage win.”

For spectators, the Vuelta a España will surely be an exciting race; for the riders, however, it will be especially difficult. As a wildcard team, NetApp-Endura will try to make a good showing and have a say in the race at the front of the pack. Íñigo Cuesta promises spectators “a good show with lots of emotion and struggling favourites”.