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Minguez admits Richmond course is ‘not ideal for Spain’

Spain's national coach says the Richmond course should deliver an exciting race, but he's not sure it favors his Spanish climbers.

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Javier Mínguez, the veteran coach of Spain’s national team, said the technical, classics-style Richmond course is far from ideal for his fleet of Spanish climbers and puncheurs. “The course is more challenging than grueling,” Mínguez said. “It’s not a course ideal for our riders, but in the finale, there are three hard hills that are stacked up.”

Spain brings a powerful, nine-man squad for Sunday’s elite men’s road race. Sharing leadership are six-time worlds medalist Alejandro Valverde and 2013 runner-up Joaquim Rodríguez. Juanjo Lobato, an improving sprinter who thrives in challenging finales, will be the team’s ace in the hole for a reduced-bunch sprint.

As Mínguez said, the technical circuit is short on the type of climbs and steeper pitches that favor the Spanish, but he said the Richmond course will prove to be a selective race nonetheless.

“The first pavé you get over easy enough, but the second is shorter and steeper, and that’s where the race will break apart,” he said. “Then comes the last climb, and there’s no let up to the finish line. There is no time to regroup. For all that, it’s almost sure the race will break up, and there will not be a mass sprint. How many? That depends — 10, 20? Maybe even less.”

Spain is always a major player at the world championships, delivering consistent rides year-in, year-out, but Spain hasn’t claimed the rainbow jersey since Oscar Freire won his third and last in 2004.

Mínguez also downplayed perceived tension between Valverde and Rodríguez, saying that is something “salsa rosa” (gossip TV). “What’s important here are the worlds. Valverde, like always, is very well prepared, and Rodríguez still has to convince himself that he can do very well. The tactics unfold on the road. I have an idea of what I’d like to see happen, but until everyone is on the road, then you can see,” he concluded. “There are a lot of ideas, but in general everyone is positive. Now it’s time to get the job done … I’ve never lost a race in the hotel.”

Mínguez singled out Belgium as the team to beat, with a host of others nipping at its heels.

“It’s clear that Belgium is the team to beat,” he said. “Australia, with Gerrans and Matthews, Italy, where Nibali will have freedom and could be dangerous, as well as Germany, with Degenkolb.”

On his controversial decision to leave Mikel Landa off the team — Mínguez left Samuel Sánchez off the 2014 worlds squad — Mínguez said he controls who rides for Spain. “The decision is mine, and I decide who I think who can go well,” Mínguez said. “I can be wrong, and I understand that there is debate, but fortunately, I do not have pressure from the federation, or from anyone else. You need to take everything into consideration, but I make the decision alone.”