Cobo debuting at Murcia tour

Looking to reach peak form in the second half of the year

Juanjo Cobo is prepared to debut his 2012 season as he headlines the field for this weekend’s Vuelta a Murcia.

Cobo hasn’t raced since last year’s Giro di Lombardia and says he’s coming into the 2012 season with the idea of being at top form in the second half of the year.

“I will race relatively easy in the first part of the season,” he said. “The idea is to be at a good level for the Tour de France and then arrive at the Vuelta in top shape to try to defend my title. I think it’s possible to be good at a good level at both the Tour and Vuelta, so we’ll see how it goes.”

The Murcia race has been reduced from five days to three last year to just two for 2012. Saturday’s opening stage will finish at the Centro de Interpretación Sierra Espuña after climbing the Collado Bermejo, the same setting where Alberto Contador attacked and won the stage. Contador went on to win the overall, but that result was erased as part of his controversial two-year ban.

Sunday’s second and final stage will be a 12km individual time trial in downtown Murcia.

Other top names include Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil) as four ProTeam squads fill out the 16-team field.