Injuries force Bahrain-Merida to name weakened team in support of Vincenzo Nibali at Vuelta a España

Three Grand Tour debutants in Vuelta squad

Vincenzo Nibali will be forced to make do with a weakened Bahrain-Merida team for the Vuelta a España as a number of key riders were ruled out through injury.

Ion Izagirre and Kanstantin Siutsou are both out of action after suffering broken bones at the Tour de France, while Ramunas Navardauskus has been sidelined after doctor’s discovered an anomaly in his heart in June.

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Those injuries have forced the team to name a less experienced team than they would have hoped, handing Grand Tour debuts to Domen Novak, Antonio Nibali, and Ivan Cortina.

>>> Vuelta a España 2017 start list

“Unfortunately, it’s not the team we imagined with the absence of strong riders such as Izagirre, Navardauskas and Sioutsou,” said sports director Paolo Slongo.

“But this has allowed us to bring in two interesting young boys like Domen Novak and Antonio Nibali. For them it will be a great experience.”

Watch: Vuelta a España essential guide

Despite not having the strong domestiques that he might like to have had at his disposal, team leader Vincenzo Nibali seems confident about his chances heading into the final Grand Tour of the season.

>>> Vuelta a España route 2017: key climbs and what to expect

“I’ve worked hard and I’m ready for this new challenge,” said the winner of the race in 2010. “The route is very demanding but overall I like it.

“Competition is really strong and seeing the small time gaps in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France you cannot be distracted even for a moment.”