Wiggins to return at Vuelta

Wiggins to return at Vuelta
By Eurosport

16/08/2011 at 18:07Updated 17/08/2011 at 02:18

Bradley Wiggins will return from his broken collarbone to make his Vuelta a Espana debut after Team Sky named their line-up for the race which starts on Saturday in Benidorm.

Briton Wiggins, who dropped out of the Tour de France after suffering the injury during a crash on stage seven, had looked in great form at the sport's showpiece event.

He is joined by compatriots Chris Froome and Ian Stannard in the nine-man team, which also includes Swede Thomas Lofkvist, Italians Dario Cioni and Morris Possoni, Spaniard Xabier Zandio, Australian Chris Sutton and Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen.

"I’m looking forward to making my return at the Vuelta a Espana," Wiggins said. "It’s a race I haven’t ridden before so it’ll be exciting to take part in and I want to produce a strong performance for all those people who have supported me since my crash at the Tour de France.

"The level of encouragement I’ve received has been overwhelming and I’d like to do everyone proud. I have a great team here to support me and it should be a really exciting three weeks of racing."

Wiggins is the team's GC hope and will be helped in the mountains by Lofkvist, who shouldered the team leader burden during the Giro d'Italia when Wiggins opted to instead concentrate on shorter events and Classics in preparation for the Tour. He finish fourth on the Tour in 2009 and had hoped to at least match that this year.

Sutton, winner of the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne classic, will be the team's sprint hope at the 66th edition of the Vuelta.

Team principal Dave Brailsford said: "Everyone was pleased with the team’s performance at the Tour de France and we will be looking to continue racing in the same way at the Vuelta a Espana.

"Having Bradley back has reinvigorated us all. He will lead the team and has recovered and trained well since his operation, but the fact he hasn’t been able to race for seven weeks means we will have to take things day by day.

“Bradley has three hugely-experienced riders there to support him in Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Dario Cioni and Xabier Zandio, while Thomas Lofkvist is also a veteran of nine Grand Tours despite his relatively young age.

“Chris Froome and Ian Stannard’s inclusion demonstrates once again the depth of British talent we have in the squad, while Morris Possoni and Chris Sutton have also impressed us again this season with their respective climbing and sprint capabilities."

He added that the race will be emotional for the team after the unexpected death last year of massage therapist Txema Gonzalez after he contracted a bacterial infection.

"The team’s debut in the race was cut short last year by the tragic death of our carer Txema Gonzalez and the penultimate stage which ends in his home town of Vitoria will be a particularly difficult day for everyone involved," he said.

"While Txema will forever be in our thoughts, this year’s race should help aid the healing process though and allow people to focus on the future."