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Sánchez number one as Valverde, Danielson, Basso and Schlecks prepare for battle
Vuelta a España organiser Unipublic announced a preliminary startlist for the Grand Tour on Thursday. Olympic road race champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is expected to start the race bearing the number 1 dossard.
Unipublic have announced preliminary line-ups for each of the 20 teams invited to the race, although with up to four reserves listed under each squad, these will be subject to change before the race starts in Assen, The Netherlands on August 29.
Irrespective of his bib number, Sánchez will be one of the favourites for the general classification title for this year's Vuelta. He finished third overall in 2007 and skipped the Tour de France this year in favour of his home race. Alejandro Valverde has been marked as leader of Caisse d'Epargne and is another rider anxious to improve on a career-best second place.
A number of foreign riders will also be hunting for the overall title. Tom Danielson's recent performance at the Vuelta a Burgos will see him lead a Garmin squad that also includes Dan Martin and David Millar, who will be starting his third Grand Tour this year.
Italian Ivan Basso will lead Liquigas while Saxo Bank's Schleck brothers will back up after last month's Tour de France. Alexandre Vinokourov's ongoing negotiations with Astana mean he has been listed as a reserve for the squad, although American Chris Horner and German Andreas Klöden are both indicated as likely starters.
The race will also be an important test for a strong selection of sprinters taking part. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will hope to improve significantly on his Tour de France performance, but will face stiff competition. Andre Greipel (Columbia-HTC) is likely to be the man to beat, while Tyler Farrar (Garmin) and Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) have shown consistent recent form.
Daniele Bennati wore the Vuelta's points classification jersey for four stages last year will provide Liquigas with an opportunity for stage wins. Spaniard Oscar Freire has also been listed as a team captain and will, as always, be a threat in the race's sprints.
The Vuelta a España begins with a 4.5 kilometre prologue at the Assen motorcycle grand prix circuit on Saturday, August 29. The race will finish in Madrid on Monday, September 20.
Click here to view the complete, preliminary startlist for the Vuelta a España.
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