Renowned lead-out man Greg Henderson will make his injury comeback and season debut at Ruta del Sol starting tomorrow.
The 37 year has not been dissuaded by a 250km transfer today and is eager to get 2014 underway having notably missed January’s Tour Down Under in which Lotto Belisol teammate Andre Greipel won two stages.
The Kiwi plans to find his racing legs at the hilly Spanish stage race that opens with a 7.3km prologue.
Henderson had some eight weeks off the bike toward the end of last season trying to determine the cause of a persistent knee complaint. He underwent surgery in December to have scar tissue, which had been irritating the tendon, removed from his right knee.
Henderson arrived from his Australia off-season base to Europe late last week and went to the team’s fitness centre in Belgium, where he was happy with performance tests.
Teammate Jelle Vanendert also marks his race return in Spain tomorrow after he crashed out of January’s Tour de San Luis.
“Both Greg Henderson and Jelle Vanendert are ready to come back after their injury. Of course Greg has no optimal condition yet because he hasn’t ridden any races so far this year,” said team sports director Jean-Pierre Heynderickx.
“We have to wait and see if he will be able to fully play the part as lead-out man for Jens Debusschere. For Greg and Jelle the Ruta del Sol is important to get competition rhythm.”
The race is not short of hard stages after the prologue and there are limited chances for sprinters.
“The first stage has quite a tough start with almost immediately a climb of first category of about 10km,” Heynderickx said. “There’s also a tough final that day. The second stage will be decisive for the GC, there’s a mountain finish. Our first goal is to get a good GC with [Bart] De Clercq, [Maxime] Monfort and [Tim] Wellens. Of course that way they also have a chance to win a stage. In stage three we aim for Debusschere. Depending on the race developments also the last stage might end with a sprint of a big group.”
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins and Sky teammate Richie Porte will also start the race, which too features in-form German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.