In the absence of Nairo Quintana and the injured Alejandro Valverde, Movistar has named a youthful team for the Vuelta a España, which gets underway from Nimes on Saturday. The highly-rated Marc Soler makes his Grand Tour debut, while the mercurial Carlos Betancur will seek to build on his solid Tour de France performance last month.
The Movistar line-up features no fewer than four Grand Tour debutants, with Soler joined in the team by Jorge Arcas, Richard Carapaz and Antonio Pedrero. That inexperience is balanced by the inclusion of Dani Moreno, José Joaquin Rojas, Nelson Oliveira and Ruben Fernandez.
Quintana’s decision to attempt the Giro-Tour double meant that a defence of his 2016 title was never on the cards, but Valverde – who has raced the Vuelta every season since he returned from a doping ban in 2012 – was long slated to lead Movistar in the third Grand Tour of the season. He misses the event after fracturing his kneecap in a crash in the opening time trial of the Tour de France.
Betancur’s 18th place overall in Paris was a rare bright spot in a trying Tour for Movistar. The Colombian rode strongly in support of Quintana and will hope to replicate that form in Spain. Betancur placed fifth overall at the 2013 Giro d'Italia, but has struggled to make an impact in Grand Tours since.
Soler announced himself on the international stage by winning the Tour de l’Avenir in 2015 before turning professional last season. The Catalan rider has quietly impressed this season, placing third overall at the Volta a Catalunya and riding to eighth at the Tour de Suisse in June.
The veteran Moreno has been a remarkably consistent performer at the Vuelta over the years, and has never finished lower than 12th in his past nine appearances. Moreno was eighth overall in Madrid a year ago and should arrive in Nimes relatively fresh, having missed the Giro and the Tour.
Rojas performed well in support of Quintana last year before he was forced out when he broke his leg in a crash on the penultimate stage. The Spaniard recovered to take fifth at Amstel Gold Race this spring and will enjoy greater freedom than normal on this year’s Vuelta.
Movistar team for Vuelta a España: Jorge Arcas (Spa), Carlos Betancur (Col), Richard Carapaz (Spa), Rubén Fernández (Spa), Dani Moreno (Spa), Nelson Oliveira (Por), Antonio Pedrero (Spa), José Joaquín Rojas (Spa) and Marc Soler (Spa).
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