American Andrew Talansky will lead the charge for Cannondale-Drapac at the Vuelta a España, which begins this Saturday in Ourense, Spain. Simon Clarke, Joe Dombrowski, Moreno Moser, Pierre Rolland, Ben King, Davide Formolo, Davide Villela, and Paddy Bevin complete the squad, which is capable of winning stages and protecting Talansky in the mountains.

The Vuelta is a notably grueling grand tour each season, and the 2017 iteration is no departure. There are 12 hilly or mountain stages, and even some of the opening “flat” days have what the Vuelta organizers call “high-altitude” finishes. A 29.4 kilometer ITT a team effort against the clock to open things up Saturday. There are 51 summits to be climbed over the three-week race.

“The Vuelta is always a challenging race,” said Talansky. “It’s a little less predictable than the Tour for example with a mix of punchier uphill finishes alone with a few more traditional mountain stages packed with back-to-back long climbs. The individual TT and the stage 20 uphill finish are two I am really looking forward to. I am usually my best in the third week so having some harder stages back loaded like that leaves a lot of opportunity to move up the standings at the very end of the race. Overall, I am really looking forward to the entire three weeks of racing, taking it day by day, and I’m excited to see where I can end up when we arrive to Madrid.”

This marks Talansky’s fifth crack at the Vuelta. He finished seventh in 2012.

“The Vuelta is the last of the three grand tours, and each one has its own flavor,” said Talansky. “I’ve never done the Giro but even as a spectator you can see differences in the style that each of the three Grand Tours are raced. The Vuelta was my first Grand Tour and it has always been special to me. The Spanish fans are great, the race is intense, but traditionally the stress level is slightly lower than the Tour.”

“Whether that’s the case this year with big names like Contador, Froome and Quintana coming remains to be seen,” Talansky added. “Personally I would like put in a good overall GC ride, improving upon the last time I focused on GC in this race in 2012. I’ve had a smooth run in to the race and I just want to get the most out of myself.”

Talansky isn’t short on support in Spain. Clarke, who won the 2012 Vuelta mountains classification in his Grand Tour debut, lends crucial experience as road captain. Dombrowksi, Rolland, Villella and Formolo are excellent climbers, and the Argyle Armada will be able to keep the climbers sheltered before the roads tilt upward.

“The team we have brought here is exceptional,” Talansky noted. “We have a strong squad for the opening time trial as well as individuals who can win stages on all types of terrain. I’ll have great support in the mountains and I’m excited to see what we as a team can accomplish over the next three weeks.”

Bingen Fernandez, DS at the Vuelta for Cannondale-Drapac, expects an animated affair.

“They want some active finishes, where there is always ‘something’ at the end of the stage to keep the riders busy.  There are 12 medium/high mountain stages and 2 flat stages with a hard top finishes after all the day on the flat,” Fernandez said. The Vuelta is the Grand Tour that started to change the idea of the stages. Organizers wanted sorter stages with explosive finales.  The atmosphere is more relaxed but when the race is on, it’s on.”

Cannondale-Drapac for the 2017 Vuelta a España:

Patrick Bevin
Simon Clarke
Joe Dombrowski
Davide Formolo
Ben King
Moreno Moser
Pierre Rolland
Andrew Talansky
Davide Villella