Mikel Landa (Movistar) has been provisionally named on the Spanish team for the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, though a final decision on his selection will only be taken after he has gauged his condition in this week’s Giro della Toscana and Coppa Sabatini.
Landa returns to competition on Thursday for the first time since he fractured a vertebra and a rib in a crash at the Clasica San Sebastian in early August. If Landa is unable to prove his fitness in Tuscany in the coming days, his place on Spain’s eight-rider team for the elite men’s road race will be taken by Omar Fraile (Astana).
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will lead the Spanish team, which was announced by coach Javier Minguez on Tuesday. Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors), fresh from finishing second overall at the Vuelta a España, is the other leading light in a Spanish squad laden with climbing talent.
Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Mikel Neive (Mitchelton-Scott), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) and the Team Sky pairing of David de la Cruz and Jonathan Castroviejo have all been confirmed on the team.
Valverde is among the principal favourites for the elite men’s road race, which features more than 4,000 metres of vertical climb. The veteran has claimed six medals at the Worlds dating back to Hamilton in 2003 – four bronze and two silver – but has never worn the rainbow jersey.
Spain was an historic underachiever at the elite men’s road race at the Worlds before 1995, when Abraham Olano won the rainbow jersey in Duitama ahead of Miguel Indurain, reversing the result of the individual time trial.
Unlucky Landa suffers heavy fall while drinking
Since then, Oscar Freire has won a hat-trick of world titles – in 1999, 2001 and 2004 – while Igor Astarloa led a Spanish one-two in 2003. Valverde has been a threat in recent years, while the since-retired Joaquim Rodriguez took bronze in Mendrisio in 2009 and silver in Florence four years later.
Javier Minguez had previously announced a 13-man shortlist for the road race during the recent Vuelta a España. Pello Bilbao (Astana), Ruben Fernandez, Marc Soler (Movistar) and Lluis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) have been deemed surplus to requirements, with Fraile poised to step in if Landa proves unable to race in Austria.
Jonathan Castroviejo has been confirmed for the individual time trial, an event in which he claimed a bronze medal in Doha in 2016. The second spot in the time trial will go to one of the Movistar trio of Jorge Arcas, Imanol Erviti and Marc Soler.
The Spanish delegation will gather in Sierra Nevada on Friday for a pre-Worlds training camp before travelling to Austria on September 27.
The team for the elite women’s road race was also announced on Tuesday, with four Movistar riders in the line-up. Mavi García, Alicia González, Lorena Llamas and Eider Merino will be joined in the squad by Ane Santesteban (Ale-Cipollini) and Cristina Martínez (Bizkaia-Murias).
Landa shows fine form with attack in Tour of the Basque Country
The Innsbruck Worlds gets underway with the team time trial on Sunday, September 23. The elite women’s road race takes place on September 29, with the elite men’s road race the following day.
Spanish team for UCI Road World Championships:
Elite men’s road race: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors), Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), David de la Cruz (Team Sky), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) or Omar Fraile (Astana)
Elite men’s time trial: Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky) and one from Jorge Arcas, Imanol Erviti, Marc Soler (Movistar Team)
Elite women’s road race: Mavi García (Movistar), Ane Santesteban (Ale-Cipolloni), Cristina Martínez (Bizkaia-Murias), Alicia González (Movistar), Lorena Llamas (Movistar) and Eider Merino (Movistar)