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“It is an honour to be picked as the team leader and it’s a responsibility that I want to try and fulfil. I respect what the team has asked of me and I want to try and make the most out of the opportunity," Henao says

Photo: Sirotti

CHRISTIAN KNEES

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DARIO CATALDO

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EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN

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RIGOBERTO URAN

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SALVATORE PUCCIO

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SERGIO LUIS HENAO

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TEAM SKY

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VASIL KIRYENKA

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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XABIER ZANDIO

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20.08.2013 @ 14:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having put riders in the top 2 in the first two grand tours of the season, Team Sky has now set its sights on the final three-week race of the season. As expected, young Colombian Sergio Henao has been selected as team leader and he will be supported by an incredibly strong grand tour team that also contains Giro runner-up Rigoberto Uran.

 

Team Sky has a reputation as the world's best grand tour team and the team is likely to feature at the pointy end of the Vuelta a Espana which starts on Saturday. Having already put Chris Froome on the top step of the Tour de France podium and supported Rigoberto Uran to a 2nd place finish in the Giro d'Italia, the team has decided to back Sergio Henao for this year's edition of the Spanish grand tour.

 

Last year the Colombian rose to prominence during his first professional season when he finished in the top 10 in his debut grand tour before going on to finish 3rd in the Tour of Poland and 2nd in the Vuelta a Burgos. He played a support role for Chris Froome in the Vuelta but still ended up 14th. He had enough left in the tank to finish 9th at the world championships, 4th in Gran Piemonte and 5th in Il Lombardia at the end of the season.

 

This season he has been on fire with stage wins in the Volta ao Algarve and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, also finishing 3rd in the latter event on the back of a long stint as race leader. He was runner-up in the Fleche Wallonne but paid the price for his long season at the Giro where he faded towards the end of the race.

 

Having recovered in Colombia, he resumed his season in the Tour of Poland where he emerged as the best climber and finished 5th overall. Since then he has finished his preparation for what will be his major objective of the season.

 

With no less than 11 uphill finishes - many of those extremely steep - the course is perfectly suited to the explosive climber who relishes the chance to lead the world's leading stage race team in a grand tour.

 

“It is an honour to be picked as the team leader and it’s a responsibility that I want to try and fulfil," he said. "I respect what the team has asked of me and I want to try and make the most out of the opportunity."

 

“The Vuelta is always a hard race and it’s getting tougher every year. There are a lot of great riders targeting the race this season and the racing is going to be at a really high level.”

 

On the back of his 2nd place finish at the Giro, Uran will line up in a support role. He will be Henao's trusted lieutenant in the mountains. He played a similar role for Bradley Wiggins at the Giro but took over captaincy duties when the Brit abandoned due to illness. A similar scenario could play out again this time, should Henao fall out of contention along the way.

 

Henao will get crucial support in the mountains from Dario Cataldo and Vasil Kiryienka. The former won the queen stage of the race last year and was a key domestique for Froome at the Tirreno-Adriatico and for Uran at the Giro. Having twice finished 12th at the Giro, he knows how to handle the strains of a three-week race.

 

Kiryienka is one of the most trusted domestiques in the peloton and was set to play a crucial role for Froome during the Tour. He famously finished outside the time limit on stage 9 but is now back in action as he is once again expected to lead the peloton for endless of hours in the mountains.

 

Experienced grand tour riders Xabier Zandio and Christian Knees who were also part of the Giro line-up, will keep Henao protected on the flat stages. Young Salvatore Puccio will play a similar role, having enjoyed his own moment in the spotlight when he took over the leader's jersey after the team time trial in the Giro.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen crashed out of the Tour with a broken scapula but is now ready to resume his season. He will assist Henao on both flat and mountain stages while also taking his own chance in the few sprints on offer in this year's Vuelta. He will be ably supported by young sprinter Luke Rowe who will make his grand tour debut.

 

“It’s a testament to the strength and depth in this team that we can line up in all three Grand Tours this year with such strong squads," team principal David Brailsford said. “We’ve watched Sergio develop since he joined the team and this is a great opportunity for him to demonstrate what he is capable of on a big stage like the Vuelta. We have selected a squad for all eventualities out on the road and we’re excited to get started and to try to build on our success this season.”

 

The Vuelta starts on Saturday with a team time trial in Galicia.

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