Rodriguez to lead Katusha’s Vuelta charge

Joaquim Rodriguez will lead the Katusha team in the upcoming Vuelta a Espana with support from twice winner Denis Menchov and Vuelta a Burgos winner Dani Moreno.

Rodriguez, 33, will bid for success in his home grand tour with the help of compatriot Moreno and Russia’s Menchov.

"As usual it will be a very hard Vuelta,” said Valerio Piva, Katusha’s head of sport directors.

“The [six] uphill finishes, which we’ve concentrated on in the last week, will be crucial. I think we have a very balanced team: the leader will be Joaquim, just like in the Giro d'Italia, with great riders such as Denis and Dani to help him, especially during the climbs.

“At least, that will be our starting set-up, then after looking at our riders' shape and situation, we will see if we should change this setting or not.”

Piva feels that the rest of the team will also play a key role over the course of the 13-stage event.

“The other riders can give us huge support,” he continued. “Smukulis and Ignatyev will help us not to lose too much time during the team time trial and can do a great job leading the group during some stages, just like Brutt, Florencio and Vicioso during flat or middle mountain stages.

“Losada, instead, will help 'Purito' (Rodriguez) in high mountain stages, just like Denis and Dani.

“Our goal is obviously the overall standings: we want to fight for general classification, even if we see some stages we want to win.

“The standard of the competition will be high, with some great riders at the start: for example, Chris Froome proved to be an incredible climber and it will be hard to defeat, and I saw Alberto Contador in a great shape during the Eneco Tour even if he's only been back racing for a short while."

The line-up:

Pavel Brutt, Xavier Florencio, Mikhail Ignatyev, Alberto Losada, Denis Menchov, Daniel Moreno, Joaquim Rodriguez, Gatis Smukulis, Angel Vicioso. Sport Directors: Valerio Piva, Dmitriy Konyshev, Claudio Cozzi