Kiwi pair aim to prove point in Tour of Spain
New Zealand cyclists Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston may both feel they have points to prove when they contest the Tour of Spain, starting this weekend.
Both riders have been named by their respective teams for the last grand tour of the year after being controversially left out of the road race team for the Olympics.
It is a chance to remind the BikeNZ selectors what they missed out on, especially as spots in the New Zealand team for next month's world championships in Holland are up for grabs.
Greg Henderson and Jack Bauer were named ahead of Dean and Roulston in London and it's arguable whether those selection decisions were the right ones.
Henderson, having just completed the Tour de France, had diarrhoea during the Olympics race and had to pull out.
Bauer did finish 10th, having got in the breakaway, but he missed the attack from Rigoberto Uran and Alexandr Vinokurov and it's debatable whether Roulston would have allowed their attack to go without him.
Roulston and Dean rode in the Tour of Poland after missing out on selection for the Olympics and the Tour de France, so they should be in fine form and good condition for three weeks of riding around northern Spain.
It will be Roulston's third grand tour - he competed in the same race in 2010 and the Tour de France the previous year.
“I am motivated, excited to be here, and really hope to do something special in the coming weeks,” Roulston said in his blog about the Tour of Spain.
“The race this year is rather hard, a lot of uphill finishes and we start in Pamplona with a team time trial. This is the first goal of mine and the team. We want to get off to a good start and I want to play a big role too.
"The way the tour is laid out I reckon the GC [general classification] will be well established early in the race, which means there will be a lot of opportunities for breakaways and stage wins, which is where I hope to live a dream of mine ever since I turned pro, the exclusive stage win in a grand tour.”
Roulston's RadioShack Nissan are in Spain without their big stars as Andy Schleck has chosen to race in North America and his brother, Frank, is suspended after failing a drugs test at the Tour de France.
“We have a pretty strong team all round, no real superstars but just some good bike riders,” Roulston said.
“For us there are one or two riders that can finish high on the classification, but we also have a good mix to be in the breakaways going for stage wins. It would be nice for the team to pick up some wins and I can assure you having a solid team is also very important for the team time trial.”
Dean's ORICA-GreenEdge team is also light on stars so its sports director, Neil Stephens, has said Dean will be a key figure.
“In certain regards, he'll act as team leader on the road during the race," Stephens said. “Julian's a tough rider, and he rides 100 per cent for the team.”
The race starts with the 16.5km time trial around Pamplona on Saturday night. Fairfax NZ