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Worlds '07: The Spanish Armada

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I'm not sure I understand the course well enough to predict whether this is the team to beat, but it sure looks good:

Oscar Freire, Juan Antonio Flecha, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquím Rodríguez, Samuel Sánchez, Carlos Sastre, Xavier Florencio, Carlos Barredo and Manuel Beltrán for the road race. José Iván Gutiérrez would start for Valverde if the UCI blocks his participation.

There's a terrific mix of grinders and slashers -- Flecha is the ultimate workhorse, Barredo, Rodríguez and Beltrán equally accomplished riders for any terrain, especially climbs. Florencio and Freire can both sprint... but of course so can Valverde and even Sánchez at the end of a climb. In short, this is a team with a lot of cards to play, unless they subtract Valverde, in which case it'll either be Sánchez if the course is really selective, or whomever of Freire or Florencio is closest to the front.

Sastre's inclusion seems like it's more out of respect... I can't see him animating these short climbs, and he absolutely won't win if there's even one other guy with him at the end. But he may be one of the strongest riders in the world at the moment, so it's worth a shot. If the course is really, really selective... hey, you never know.

José Iván Gutiérrez and Luis León Sánchez will race the time trial. Both are solid picks, and Gutiérrez is the national champ, last seen blitzing the field at the Eneco Tour in his flaming Spanish skinsuit.