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Vuelta a Espana

Craddock, Haga to Vuelta for total of six Americans, two Canadians

Six U.S. riders and two Canadians head a solid North American contingent for the season's final grand tour, the Vuelta a España

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A solid contingent of North American riders is heading to the Vuelta a España this weekend, including WorldTour rookies Chad Haga and Lawson Craddock, who both were tipped Tuesday by Giant-Shimano to make their respective grand tour debuts.

Haga, 25, rode well in the final time trial at the Vuelta a Burgos on Sunday, stopping the clock for a season-best fourth place, while Craddock, 22, was third overall at the Amgen Tour of California in May. Both have been consistent all season, and have earned a spot on the Giant-Shimano lineup for the Vuelta.

“If I were to be selected, I will try to finish the thing,” Craddock told VeloNews in a telephone interview earlier this month. “We’ll be going with a strong team, with [Warren] Barguil for the GC, and [John] Degenkolb for the sprints. So if I am selected, I will be going there to help Warren out in the GC, and help John in the sprints.”

As Craddock mentioned, leading Giant-Shimano will be Warren Barguil, the promising young French rider who won two Vuelta stages last year, and who will be making a push for the GC. John Degenkolb returns to the Vuelta, in part to prepare for the world championships in Ponferrada in northwest Spain. Degenkolb returns to the Vuelta for the first time since 2012, when he won five stages.

Though the start list has yet to be finalized, the inclusion of Haga and Craddock brings the American tally for the Vuelta to six.

Defending champion Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) is headlining the U.S. contingent. At 42, he will be the oldest rider in the Spanish tour. Horner has battled injury and illness all season long, but after riding to second at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, looks to be pedaling into his best fitness of the season, just in time to take on all challengers as he defends his Vuelta crown.

“The form is better this year than it was last year,” Horner told reporters last week at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. “I just need the health to clear up a little bit. Hopefully, this next week I’ll take it easy, let the lungs clear up and after that I’ll be 100 percent and ready to go on to win something at the Tour of Spain.”

Two more grand tour rookies also got the call ups by their respective teams. Larry Warbasse, 24, will be starting for BMC Racing, which brings Cadel Evans, Philippe Gilbert, and 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez. The other is Nathan Brown, 23, who will be part of an equally deep Garmin-Sharp team.

Andrew Talansky headlines Garmin-Sharp, with an eye on avenging his bitter exit from the 2014 Tour following a pair of devastating crashes. Talansky, who took a huge victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, will be looking to maximize opportunities, and will ride for the GC if he discovers his form in his return to competition after the Tour.

Two Canadians will also start, including 2012 Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal adding additional firepower to a deep Garmin-Sharp squad. Hesjedal skipped the Tour de France for the first time since his Tour debut in 2008, in part to focus on the Giro d’Italia, and later to reload for the Vuelta and late-season goals. Along with Daniel Martin, Hesjedal and Talansky will give Garmin three cards to play in the GC.

Fellow Canadian Guillaume Boivin, 25, will be making his second Vuelta start. He started last year’s Vuelta, but abandoned in stage 14. With Cannondale lining up with Peter Sagan, Boivin will be working to close down breakaways and set up Sagan for stage victories.