Vuelta a Espana

King returns to scene of Vuelta breakout

Dimension Data brings stage hunters to Spanish grand tour, led by American Ben King who won two stages last year

Ben King returns to the Vuelta a España this weekend hoping to repeat his breakout performance in 2018 that saw the American veteran capture two stage victories.

The 30-year-old King co-captains Dimension Data in the Spanish grand tour notable by the absence of sprinter Mark Cavendish. The Vuelta was never on the British star’s calendar, but after missing the Tour de France in July, Cavendish will not have raced a grand tour in 2019.

King, who did race the Tour de France this year, is keen to return to the Vuelta, sight of some of his best career results.

“I’m feeling strong after the Tour de France and am excited to return to the Vuelta with good memories,” King said Tuesday. “We have a relatively young but very talented team. Having a card to play on every type of stage will guarantee that there’s never a boring stage for us.”

Cavendish’s absence, meanwhile, raises more questions about his future, and insiders say he is expected to change teams. The once-prolific former world champion has not won since February 2018 as he’s struggled with Epstein-Barr and a string of crashes. Cavendish expressed dismay after being left off the Tour team in July, and did not finish the two stage races he started since. He was riding for a teammate at the European championships earlier this month. Dimension Data is racing both the Deutschland Tour and the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, but so far there is no confirmation if Cavendish will race those events.

Teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen, who’s only raced the Vuelta once before in 2013, will be looking to take a sprint stage to round out his career stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and Tour. Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Louis Meintjes and Ben O’Connor bring firepower for the mountains. Nicholas Dlamini and Rasmus Tiller both make their grand tour debuts, while Jaco Venter rounds out the eight-rider team.

King’s presence will bolster what is expected to be one of the largest contingents of U.S. riders in any Vuelta. Counting King, there are nine confirmed U.S. starters — Peter Stetina and Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo), Logan Owen, Tejay van Garderen and Lawson Craddock (EF Education First), Will Barta (CCC Team) and Sepp Kuss and Nielson Powless (Jumbo-Visma).