Vuelta a Espana

Van Garderen confirmed for Vuelta; Froome, Nibali on bubble

The BMC rider will forgo his USA Pro Challenge defense in favor of racing the Spanish grand tour

Tejay van Garderen will race the Vuelta a España next month, while two other major Tour de France protagonists are on the bubble.

Van Garderen, 26, pulled out of the Tour with an illness in stage 17 while poised for a possible run at the final podium in Paris. BMC confirmed in a Wednesday morning press release the Coloradan will skip a defense of his USA Pro Challenge title to race in Spain.

Van Garderen was initially hesitant about competing in the Vuelta, because it conflicts with Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge, which he has won the past two years. “But after looking at the route and considering what happened at the Tour, all things just seemed to point in the direction that the Vuelta was the path to take,” he said. “The more I have thought about it, the more excited I am about doing it. It is a great new challenge.

“This is 100 percent my decision. It would be nice to go out and try to win the USA Pro Challenge again. But after what happened at the Tour, I need to prove myself on a bigger scale.”

Teammate Samuel Sánchez was sixth at last year’s Vuelta. He announced last week that he would be staying with BMC Racing for the 2016 season after signing a contract extension.

“I think Samuel is going to be motivated to do his own GC there,” van Garderen said. “I definitely do not have time to prepare for it the same way I did for the Tour de France, doing the reconnaissance, etc. But I am absolutely going to show up motivated. I am not going to give anything away.”

In the meantime, van Garderen is penciled in to race at the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday in Spain’s Basque Country.

Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky) and 2014 Tour champ Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) are also mulling a possible start in the season’s third grand tour.

Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov said Astana won’t be satisfied unless it wins one of the season’s three grand tours. With second and third at the Giro d’Italia, and fourth overall at the Tour, Vinokourov is already sending Giro podium finishers Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa to the Spanish tour. Nibali’s presence would give Astana the strongest team in the Vuelta.

Froome also acknowledged he might race the Vuelta, telling Great Britain’s Sky TV on the finish line in Paris that starting the Vuelta is “in the cards.” A decision is expected within a week.

Froome has twice finished second in the Spanish tour, and would slot into pole position as the pre-race favorite if he decides to race.

No rider has pulled off the Tour-Vuelta double since the race was moved from April to September (now with an August start) in 1995. Carlos Sastre came close in 2008, finishing third at the Vuelta after winning the Tour.

Defending champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) confirmed he will not race. After winning the Giro, Contador fell short of winning the Giro-Tour double, finishing fifth overall. His final race of the 2015 season will be the Clásica San Sebastián this weekend in Spain.

Other confirmed starters include Alejandro Valverde and most likely Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).

The 70th Vuelta begins August 22 with a team time trial at Puerto Banus along Spain’s Costa del Sol.