Movistar has named the eight men that will support Alejandro Valverde at the Tour de France, which begins this Saturday. Valverde will be aiming to make the Tour podium for the first time in his career.
"The goal is fighting for a podium place in Paris with Alejandro, that's clear. He's coming into the race really strong, confident about his chances of achieving that objective, in a route I think suits him pretty well," said team manager Eusebio Unzué.
"We know there will be lots of traps he'll have to get over - the stress in this race increases all risks. Still, we hope to get through the first week in good shape and start with the first weekend of mountains in the best possible condition. He will have a balanced team by his side, with riders suited for all terrains and in perfect form."
Valverde chose not to ride either the Critérium du Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse this June, opting instead to ride the Route du Sud. He recently won the Spanish national time trial championships, beating Ion Izagirre by 56 seconds. Izagirre would go onto win the road race title on Sunday, making it eight in a row for the Movistar team.
Beñat Intxausti returns to the race after missing out on the past two editions and will be one of Valverde’s key lieutenants. He has only ridden the Tour de France once before, when he abandoned in the first week. Intxausti crashed out and injured his shoulder at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month, but the team believe that he has recovered sufficiently to support Valverde.
Alex Dowsett has missed out on a spot in the nine-man team, however. The Englishman was primed for his first Tour, but illness impacted on his form and the team opted to keep him off the list. He recently failed to defend his British time trial championship, finishing third behind Sky teammates Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas. Dowsett has been replaced by former Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti, who has been in a battle for form since breaking his leg in January.
"It's so sad for us to leave Dowsett out of the team," said Unzué. "Despite his efforts, he couldn't get to his best form due to breathing problems resulting from an infection he suffered; on the other hand, Visconti contested the win until the very end in the Italian championships on Saturday, which indicates he's into good condition."
John Gadret, who signed from Ag2r-La Mondiale during the winter, is the only other non-Spaniard in the team.
Fast man José Joaquin Rojas has also made the cut after a rough start to the season. He also crashed in Australia this January and broke his right wrist. Two months later, he fell in the neutral zone of Milan-San Remo and broke his left elbow and wrist. The final spots in the team have gone to Imanol Erviti, Rubén Plaza and Jesús Herrada, who won the overall classification at the Route du Sud.
As was previously confirmed, there is no place for Giro d'Italia winner Nairo Quintana, who will instead target victory at the Vuelta a España in August.
Movistar team for Tour de France: Alejandro Valverde, Imanol Erviti, John Gadret, Jesús Herrada, Beñat Intxausti, Ion Izagirre, Rubén Plaza, José Joaquín Rojas and Giovanni Visconti.