Team Jayco AlUla have announced a young and hungry squad for the final Grand Tour of the season, La Vuelta a España, starting on Saturday 26th August in Barcelona.
Irishman Eddie Dunbar and Giro d’Italia stage winners Filippo Zana and Matteo Sobrero will headline the Australian squad across the three weeks of racing, with the trio supported by an exciting mixture of youth and experience.
Ready For More
Leading the team’s general classification fight will be Dunbar, with the 26-year-old keen to build on his seventh-place finish at this year’s Giro d’Italia, in what was his first Grand Tour as a team leader.
Tour of Slovenia winner Zana and recent Tour of Austria stage winner Sobrero will both be key support riders for Dunbar throughout the Spanish tour, but the pair will also be free to chase their own opportunities and hunt for stage victories.
Australian duo Michael Hepburn and Callum Scotson will add experience and horsepower to the eight-man squad, with both riders lining up for their second Grand Tour of the year after starting the Giro back in May.
“My training has been going good after Poland and I’ve been putting in a few finishing touches to my training and I’m looking forward to getting started in Barcelona.
The course is fairly difficult this year, I think on paper there can be 13 ‘GC days’, so it’s going to be intense all three weeks and you’re going to have to be switched on all the time. The stages look a bit shorter than the Giro, but like I said, I think it will be more intense racing with steeper climbs. The Tourmalet and L’Angliru will be decisive stages and it will be important to be ‘on it’ during those days.
It looks like a stacked GC field, it almost looks like the Tour de France, and it will be interesting to see how it is raced. I’ve only ever watched the Vuelta on TV, but it’s going to be a different race to the Giro I expect.
For me it’s just about going in and doing our best like we did at the Giro and we have a good squad to do that. The aim is to be there or thereabouts in the GC again, in the Giro it went pretty good, I was up there on the hard stages and if we can repeat that at the Vuelta and finish off a bit stronger, I think a good GC result can be on the cards for sure.”
Grand Tour Debuts
The team will hand Grand Tour debuts to three riders, with Hagos Welay Berhe, Felix Engelhardt and Jan Maas all lining up for their first taste of a three-week tour. German Engelhardt and Ethiopian Berhe have already shown their potential in their first year as professionals with a host of standout performances to underline their raw abilities.
Dutchman Maas will be a valuable teammate across the 21 stages, with the 27-year-old set to play an important role in protecting the team leaders on both the flat and in the mountains.
Tough Start, Tougher Finish
The 2023 edition kicks off with a fast and intriguing team time trial around the streets of Barcelona that has the possibility to shake up the general classification contenders on the opening day. In true La Vuelta style, there is no easing into the race with only one classified ‘flat stage’ and three summit finishes before the first rest day as the peloton head to Andorra on day three to tackle the first summit finish.
There is no respite as action resumes on stage 10 with a time trial, before the race dips into France to take on the famous Col du Tourmalet on stage 13. More historic climbs await in the final week of racing with three testing stages in Asturias, including a summit finish of the formidable Altu de L’Angliru before the peloton eventually reaches the finale in Madrid.
Pieter Weening (Sport Director):
“Our goal is to go for a strong general classification result with Eddie and for the rest of the guys we will look to send them up the road whenever there is an opportunity and we will look to give everyone a chance.
Already on stage three we have a mountain-top finish, so after three days of racing there will be a GC established and guys who are already minutes behind, so that gives a lot of riders, including our guys a lot of opportunities to go up the road. We will look to gamble on those days when the breakaway can stay away and those riders who don’t make the break will have the job of looking after and helping Eddie.
I would say the hardest part of this Vuelta is the last eight or nine days. If you want to do a good GC it will all depend on how fresh you are in those last eight or nine stages.”
Team Jayco AlUla at La Vuelta a España:
Hagos Welay Berhe – (ETH) Debut appearance
Eddie Dunbar – (IRE) Debut appearance
Felix Engelhardt – (GER) Debut appearance
Michael Hepburn – (AUS) 2nd appearance
Jan Maas – (NED) Debut appearance
Callum Scotson – (AUS) 3rd appearance
Matteo Sobrero – (ITA) Debut appearance
Filippo Zana – (ITA) Debut appearance
Team Jayco AlUla La Vuelta a España Stats:
Youngest rider: Hagos Welay Berhe (21)
Oldest rider: Michael Hepburn (31)
Average age: 25.5
La Vuelta a España Debutants: 5
Most La Vuelta a España Appearances: Callum Scotson (2x)
Total La Vuelta a España Appearances: 5