What's Cool In Road Cycling

US Postal Team For Spain

– Reported by Dan Osipow For Tailwind Sports –
Led by an on-form former race champion, the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team today announced its nine-rider roster set to compete in the upcoming Tour of Spain, scheduled to begin Saturday in Valencia. The winner of the 2000 Vuelta, Roberto Heras will lead the USPS team in its second Grand Tour of the season.

Joining Heras in the USPS formation will be fellow Spaniard Jose Luis Rubiera, Americans Antonio Cruz, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie, Colombian Victor Hugo Pena, Steffen Kjaergaard of Norway, Canadian Michael Barry and Australian Matt White.

The 3,144 kilometer Tour of Spain, set to run September 7-29, features 21 stages including a team time trial in the opening stage, two individual time trials (stages 10 and 21) and four mountain top finishes, including the stage 15 climb to the fearsome Angliru.

“Our goal is to win the Vuelta,” said Johan Bruyneel, the USPS team’s director sportif. “We have a rider in Roberto who can win it. He won the race two years ago and he’s in great shape at the moment. We have built a team around him to assist him everywhere.”

Over the last five years, Heras has had a great run of success at the Tour of Spain, winning in 2000, placing third in 1999 and finishing in the top six the other three years – 5th in 1997, sixth in 1998 and fourth last season, despite suffering from a knee injury that plagued him nearly the whole season.

In his second year with the USPS team, Heras has shined in ’02, winning June’s Tour of Catalunya in preparation for the Tour de France. At the Tour, Heras was masterful in the mountains, helping guide teammate Lance Armstrong to his fourth consecutive Tour victory en route to a ninth place finish. In last month’s Tour of Burgos, Heras nearly won a stage before finishing eighth overall.

Bruyneel is also encouraged to see the Angliru in the race, saying, “It’s good to see that we are finishing in the Angliru in the last week. That is the mountain where Roberto gained the leader’s jersey and won the Vuelta in 2000. That must give him a lot of confidence.”

Heras will be ably supported in the mountains by Rubiera, an on-form Pena and a hungry Vande Velde. Rubiera has had another solid season for the USPS team, riding a stellar Tour de France in support of Armstrong and finishing second overall at Burgos, while Pena won the early season Tour of Murcia, rode a solid Tour de France, and recently won a stage and finished third at last month’s Tour of Holland. Vande Velde, a Tour de France starter in 1999 and 2001, was not selected to ride in this year’s Tour and is eager to display his talent at the Vuelta. Two-time Tour de France finisher and workhorse Kjaergaard will lead the group of five riders set to support the team in the flat stages. First year team member Barry and second-year member Zabriskie are set to take part in their first Grand Tour.

“The competition will be tough with (Saeco’s Gilberto) Simoni, (Coast’s defending Vuelta champion Angel) Casero, (ONCE’s Joseba) Beloki, (Kelme’s Santiago) Botero, (ibanesto.com’s Juan) Mercado and the rest, but I think Roberto and the rest of the team are ready to face them,” added Bruyneel.

2002 U.S. POSTAL SERVICE TOUR OF SPAIN TEAM
Roberto Heras (ESP)
Michael Barry (CAN)
Antonio Cruz (USA)
Steffen Kjaergaard (NOR)
Victor Hugo Pena (COL)
Jose Luis Rubiera (ESP
Christian Vande Velde (USA)
Matt White (AUS)
Dave Zabriskie (USA)

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