Colombian Esteban Chaves returns to Spain after his breakthrough Grand Tour last year. He rode to two stage wins, the leader’s jersey before eventually finishing fifth overall in last year’s Vuelta before going on to take an impressive second overall in this year’s Giro d’Italia.
No longer considered an outsider for Grand Tour results, Chaves has proven his credentials as one of the world’s top grand tour performers and will be targeting another good result this time around.
A strong team of climbers assembled around Chaves is headlined by 24-year-old British cyclist Simon Yates who comes into the squad after solid form since his return to the peloton, including his first professional victory at the Clasica Ordizia and fourth overall at the Vuelta a Burgos.
The recent announcement of Yates's contract extension with Orica-BikeExchange will no doubt be a talking point for seasons to come and it will be interesting to see how Simon Yates goes after his twin's fourth overall in the Tour de France.
Australian climbing talent Damien Howson and Grand Tour debutant Jack Haig will play vital roles in the mountains with neo-pro Haig receiving an excellent opportunity to gain more stage racing experience against some of the best riders in the world.
Sport director Neil Stephens spoke ahead of the race about the team's prospects.
“We are heading into the Vuelta a Espana with one very clear objective,” said Stephens. “And that is to achieve the best possible general classification result that we can.”
“Of course, as always this will be a very difficult race and we will have to pay close attention to a very strong field of competitors. We have only the upmost respect for the race and the other teams.
“Esteban (Chaves) has proven with his performances over the last year that he deserves to be the leader of the team for the 2016 Vuelta and we are all super motivated to do all we can to support him.”
2016 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans returns to the team after a broken collarbone forced him to abandon the Tour de France in July. He hasn't raced since, so it is unlikely that he'll be in peak form at the start of the race and will have to feel his way into the contest.
Gerrans will occupy a more versatile role within the team, and alongside Belgian Jens Keukeleire and Dane Magnus Cort, will be on hand to provide all-round support and important speed on the flatter stage finishes.
Sam Bewley and Svein Tuft will be the engine of the team on the flat stages, doing important work if anything goes wrong as well as carrying out little duties that the cameras don't catch. Charged with the responsibility gaining and maintaining position for the team the pair will cover many selfless kilometres.
“We have a team with a great mixture of talent, experience and motivation,” said Stephens. “The whole squad has a fantastic attitude and work ethic which is going to be hugely important over the next three weeks of racing.”
“The guys are all clear on our aims and objectives but as with any bike race you have to be prepared for any eventuality.
“I’m happy and excited that we have such a strong and versatile squad here and I feel that we are well equipped to compete in such a challenging race.”
The 2016 route includes a staggering ten summit finishes with the most difficult stages packed into the second week of racing. The Vuelta a Espana starts with a 29.5 kilometre team time trial in Galicia in northwestern Spain before moving into the Basque Country and the Pyrenees.
The final week of racing crisscrosses through southern Spain taking in Valencia and Alicante before the traditional sprint finish in downtown Madrid concludes proceedings.