This year's Vuelta a España is sticking to what it knows (and does!) best.
The Spanish Grand Tour has carved out a strong identity over recent editions with the race being defined by an aggressive amount of climbing and offering very few opportunities for stage wins to the pure sprinters.
The return of the Alto de L’Angliru, where Kenny Elissonde won in 2013, a trip up the Col du Tourmalet, and no fewer than nine uphill finishes, ensure that the 2023 edition of La Vuelta a España will be as punishing as ever.
Kicking off with a team time trial, the 3,154km route also features one pancake-flat individual race against the clock, numerous hilly tests, and just four flat stages for the sprinters.
Lidl-Trek has its bases covered though, lining up with a roster that consists of riders suited to tackling the flat stages, the leg-sapping mountain stages and all those in between. The team includes: Julien Bernard, Kenny Elissonde, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Juanpe Lopez, Jacopo Mosca, Bauke Mollema, Edward Theuns and Otto Vergaerde.
The goal over the next 21 days of racing will be stage wins with the Team looking to race aggressively from Barcelona to Madrid.
On the eve of the race, we caught up with three of Lidl-Trek’s eight riders that will be on the hunt for stage success…
"The main goal is a stage win and we will all be fighting to achieve this for the Team. I am coming into this Vuelta feeling good during training but racing is different so I will have to see where I am in the first days. Depending on what my feelings on the bike are and what my power is like also, it might take me a little time to really get into the rhythm again but I really believe that there will be chances for me to challenge for a stage win. Andorra is my second home so it would be good to be up there on that day but it will really depend on how the stage plays. The last week though is super hard to I think if I arrive there in good shape, it could be a perfect opportunity for me."
"It's really exciting to be coming into a Grand Tour with the goal of racing aggressively every day and with a team that is really here to try and help each other when different opportunities arise. I think my focus is more on the second and third week but it's nice for the team that everyone will get their chances. I think Eddie can do really well in the sprints and had a good chance to go for some nice results. We also have a lot of climbers on our team for the other stages, so it's nice to have all of those different cards to play to achieve our stage win goals."
"I counted five stages, maybe even six, stages that could be a bunch sprint but, because of the parcours, there's not so many sprinters here so I think it there is the possibility that the bunch sprints on paper are stages that could fit the breakaway. Either way, for me, that doesn't change a lot and those stages are still the ones that I want to be good in. I've prepared well for this race, I had a good altitude camp and some good racing in Wallonie and Poland. I've put a lot of effort into this race and was really motivated during that process so I hope it will be good. In the second part of the season, I never really reached a good level because after the Classics I had some sickness and I never had the feeling that I was reaching the level I wanted to. After the Nationals though, I took a short break and started to build up again. Finally, I have the feeling that I am reaching the level that I was hoping to have. I have done a lot of work and a bit more climbing than I usually do which is good for a Grand Tour and I really paid attention to my weight to climb better. So, I have done the maximum I could do and now, it's time to see what it will be in the race."