ORICA-BikeExchange line up at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana this Saturday with a strong and versatile team motivated for a high general classification result.

The third and final Grand Tour of the year will follow a difficult, mountainous route over three weeks of racing and cover a total of 3315.4km.

After outstanding performances in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, Australia’s first professional WorldTour cycling team approach the race with a well-deserved collective confidence.

Colombian Esteban Chaves returns to Spain after two stage wins, the leader’s jersey and eventually fifth overall in last year’s Vuelta before achieving an impressive second overall in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

No longer considered an outside bet, Chaves has proven his credentials as one of the world’s top grand tour performers and will be targeting another good result this time around.

A strong team assembled around Chaves includes 24-year-old Briton Simon Yateswho comes into the squad after a string of excellent results including his first professional victory at the Clasica Ordizia and fourth overall at the Vuelta a Burgos.

Australian climbing talent Damien Howson and Grand Tour debutant Jack Haig will play vital roles in the mountains with Haig receiving an excellent opportunity to gain more stage racing experience.

Sport director Neil Stephens is looking forward to the race and is excited about the team’s prospects.

“We are heading into the Vuelta a Espana with one very clear objective,” said Stephens. “And that is to achieve the best possible general classification result that we can.”

“Of course, as always this will be a very difficult race and we will have to pay close attention to a very strong field of competitors. We have only the upmost respect for the race and the other teams.

“Esteban (Chaves) has proven with his performances over the last year that he deserves to be the leader of the team for the 2016 Vuelta and we are all super motivated to do all we can to support him.”

2016 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans returns to the team after a broken collarbone forced him to abandon the Tour de France in July.

Gerrans will occupy a more versatile role within the team, and alongside Belgian Jens Keukeleire and Dane Magnus Cort, will be on hand to provide all-round support and important speed on the flatter stage finishes.

Two of the ORICA-BikeExchange ‘Big Three’, Sam Bewley and Svein Tuft, complete the lineup and form the core of the team. Charged with the responsibility gaining and maintaining position for the team the pair will cover many selfless kilometres.

“We have a team with a great mixture of talent, experience and motivation,” continued Stephens. “The whole squad has a fantastic attitude and work ethic which is going to be hugely important over the next three weeks of racing.”

“The guys are all clear on our aims and objectives but as with any bike race you have to be prepared for any eventuality.

“I’m happy and excited that we have such a strong and versatile squad here and I feel that we are well equipped to compete in such a challenging race.”

The 2016 route includes a staggering ten summit finishes with the most difficult stages packed into the second week of racing. The ‘Tour of Spain’ starts with a 29.5kilometre team time trial in Galicia in northwestern Spain before moving into the Basque Country and the Pyrenees.

The final week of racing crisscrosses through southern Spain taking in Valencia and Alicante before the traditional sprint finish in downtown Madrid concludes proceedings.

The ORICA-BikeExchange guide to the first seven stages will be posted on Thursday 18th of August.

ORICA-BikeExchange at the Vuelta a Espana, (20th August – 11th September 2016):

Sam Bewley (NZ, 29)
Magnus Cort (DEN, 23)
Esteban Chaves (COL, 26)
Simon Gerrans (AUS, VIC, 36)
Jack Haig (AUS, 22)
Damien Howson (AUS, SA, 24)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL, 26)
Svein Tuft (CAN, 38)
Simon Yates (GBR, 24)