'Unfinished business' for Froome as Team Sky announce Vuelta a Espana 2017 squad - Road Cycling UK

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‘Unfinished business’ for Froome as Team Sky announce Vuelta a Espana 2017 squad

Ian Stannard and Wout Poels return to support Froome but Peter Kennaugh and Tao Geoghegan Hart miss out

Team Sky have revealed the eight riders who will support Chris Froome’s bid to seal a Tour de France-Vuelta a Espana double, with Britain’s Ian Stannard among them.

Froome is the pre-race favourite for the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, which starts with a team time trial in Nimes on Satuday (August 19).

And he will be backed for the season’s final Grand Tour by a strong team, which includes two of the men who helped him to win the 2017 Tour de France – Christian Knees and Mikel Nieve.

Chris Froome says he has ‘unfinished business’ at the Vuelta a Espana (pic: Sirotti)

Spanish veteran David Lopez, Grand Tour debutant Gianni Moscon, key climbing domestique Wout Poels and Tour de Pologne King of the Mountains Diego Rosa are also selected, and will play a pivotal role on the climbs.

And the team is completed by Italian Salvatore Puccio, who has raced the last two Vueltas, and will be lining up at his eighth Grand Tour for Team Sky in all.

It means British duo Peter Kennaugh, who wore the red jersey after the first stage last year, and neo-pro Tao Geoghegan Hart miss out, having been named in Sky’s longlist for the race.

Froome is bidding to become only the third rider in pro cycling history to win the Tour and Vuelta in the same year, having finished second in the Spanish Grand Tour for the third time last year.

And the 31-year-old four-time Tour champion believes he has unfinished business in the race.

Ian Stannard is one of the eight riders selected to support Froome at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana (pic – Sirotti)

“I’ve finished second three times now, but I’ve got a good feeling about this year’s Vuelta,” he said.

“It feels like we’re on much more of a mission this year, and aiming for the Tour/Vuelta double this season has been a huge motivation.

“I don’t think we’ve been to the Vuelta a Espana with a team as strong as we’ve got this year.”

But Froome, who will face challenges from the likes of the retiring Alberto Contador, former winner Vincenzo Nibali and Tour de France runner-up Romain Bardet, is under no illusions about the task in hand.

“It’s a race I love doing, but it’s relentless,” he admitted. “The course is always a lot more mountainous than the Tour de France and the conditions are tougher. Being mid-August in Spain, it’s quite common to have temperatures up in the mid 40s. It’s absolutely brutal.

“One thing that really sets the Vuelta apart from other races is where it is in the season. You have this mixture of riders who have targeted the Vuelta specifically, and others who are coming off a big season already.

“Typically, it’s a very aggressive race and a very punchy style of racing, which always makes for great viewing for the fans.”

Froome will be reunited with key domestique Wout Poels at the Vuelta a Espana, after the Dutchman missed the 2017 Tour de France (pic: Sirotti)

Poels’ return is a significant boost for Froome and Sky, after the Dutchman missed the Tour de France after failing to fully recover from injuries sustained earlier in the year.

He was an integral part of Froome’s Tour de France successes in 2015 and 2016, and with Nieve is set to be a key domestique in the mountains.

Nieve, who will race his final Grand Tour for Team Sky having agreed to join Orica-Scott next season, finished 14th at the Tour de France and has twice finished in the top ten overall at the Vuelta.

Rosa, meanwhile, has already been on a winning team at the Vuelta, having backed up Fabio Aru’s successful GC bid at the 2015 race.

Pete Kennaugh wore the Vuelta a Espana’s red jersey for a stage in 2016, but the Bora-hansgrohe-bound former British champion has been cut from Team Sky’s longlist for this year’s race (pic: Sirotti)

Knees and Stannard will protect Froome and set the pace on the earlier parts of stages, while Lopez is another supporter for the mountains, having been part of Froome’s first ever Tour de France success in 2013.

Italian time trial champion Moscon, meanwhile, who was fifth at Paris-Roubaix this year, will make his Grand Tour debut and bid to end a season which included a six-week ban for racial abuse on a more positive note.

Froome and Stannard’s selection takes the number of Brits confirmed for the race up to four, with Adam and Simon Yates both selected for Orica-Scott while Hugh Carthy (Cannondale-Drapac), Adam Blythe and Mark Christian (both Aqua Blue Sport) are on their teams’ respective longlists.

Team Sky for 2017 Vuelta a Espana

Chris Froome (GBR)
Ian Stannard (GBR)
Mikel Nieve (ESP)
Wout Poels (NED)
Diego Rosa (ITA)
Gianni Moscon (ITA)
David Lopez (ESP)
Christian Knees (GER)
Salvatore Puccio (ITA)

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