UAE Team Emirates have announced 2015 Vuelta a España champion Fabio Aru and this year’s winner of the Tour of California, Tadej Pogačar, as their leaders for the 2019 Vuelta a España, which starts on Saturday.
Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria will be their main man for bunch sprints, and the eight-man team will be completed with a trio of Italians – Valerio Conti, Marco Marcato and Oliviero Troia – and two more Colombians in Sergio Henao and Sebastian Molano.
“As always, the Vuelta a España represents an important and stimulating challenge, both in terms of the route and the quality of the start list,” said Aru in a team press release.
“I’m excited and ready to race, especially since the operation I had four months ago,” he added, with the Italian having had to undergo surgery earlier in the season for a constriction of the iliac artery in his left leg.
Aru was forced to miss the Giro d’Italia as a result, but returned to competition in June, and rode the Tour de France in July, finishing 14th overall.
He won the Vuelta overall back in 2015, beating Joaquim Rodriguez and Rafal Majka, but the now 29-year-old has been unable to reach a Grand Tour podium since then.
“The goal is to compete at a high level, but also to be consistent,” he said of his Vuelta hopes.
Pogačar, meanwhile, at just 20 years old, won the 2019 Tour of California in convincing fashion in May, attacking on the penultimate stage to Mount Baldy, and getting the better of the then 21-year-old Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) both on the stage and overall.
“I’m really excited to be able to participate in my first Grand Tour, and can’t wait to be on the starting ramp for the team time trial [on Saturday] and start this new challenge,” said the young Slovenian.
“I’ll be in Spain with the aim of learning as much as possible, understanding how to move in the bunch in such an important race, and how to manage it over the three weeks,” he continued. “It’s the only way I can start building something good for the next few years.”
However, team manager Joxean Matxin hinted that there may be a bigger role for Pogačar to play alongside Aru.
“For the general classification, we’ve got Fabio, whose condition has grown a lot, and he’s approaching the Vuelta with great concentration and determination,” Matxin said of Aru.
“The choice was also made that the talented Tadej Pogačar would make his debut after proving this year that he is not only a contender for the future, but for the present, too,” he said.
UAE Team Emirates for the 2019 Vuelta a España: Fabio Aru, Valerio Conti, Fernando Gaviria, Sergio Henao, Marco Marcato, Sebastian Molano, Tadej Pogačar, Oliviero Troia