Movistar’s three team leaders for 2018 - Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and new signing Mikel Landa - could all ride the Tour de France next July. The three-pronged attack would provide the Spanish squad with multiple options to take on defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Movistar has not ruled out that either Landa or Valverde could also take part in the Giro d’Italia. The Spanish team considered its option and decided on a Grand Tour strategy at the end of a weeklong team meeting near the team's headquarters in Pamplona, Spain.
The current thinking is that all three could well be present at the Tour’s start line of Les Vendées next July 7. The idea was backed up by team manager Eusebio Unzué as well as the riders in separate interviews with a small group of media, including Cyclingnews.
“We’ve won the Giro d’Italia in recent years, and the Vuelta, taken the Hour Record and won several top Classics. The gap in all of this is the Tour de France,” Unzue pointed out.
“Obviously, we’ve hit on a Froome in top condition, and although he has been incredibly consistent in the Tour and Vuelta this year, there have maybe been fewer flashes of brilliance than in other seasons.
“But we’ve got the idea of having all three riders in the Tour. We’ll see. We’re still saying goodbye to 2017, rather than saying hello to 2018, but over the next few weeks we’ll come to a final decision.”
A definitive plan of action, Unzue said, will likely be shaped by the time of the team’s official presentation, in Madrid in December.
Landa quickly fits in at Movistar
New signing Mikel Landa was the first to raise the possibility of targeting the Tour de France. Landa finished fourth in the 2017 Tour, just one second short of the podium, despite working for Sky team-leader Chris Froome and riding the giro d’Italia.
“We haven’t spoken in detail about the calendar, but I liked the Tour last year, and I’m hoping to return,” Landa said. “Once I’ve seen the Giro d’Italia route, I’ll decide what I want to do.”
Valverde - well on the road to a full recovery from his appalling crash last July - was equally adamant that he might go for the same option of racing the Tour, despite saying “initially, a month or so ago, in an interview I said that doing the Tour wasn’t really a possibility.”
“But looking at the route that’s come out, I think it could suit me. I like the short, punchy mountain stages, in particular,” he said today.
“The Tour could be much more fun with all three of us there and then because of the route, it could be one that works well there. This kind of Tour is one that makes for interesting strategies. A lot more opportunities.”
Quintana did not seem worried about Landa being a possible rival within the Movistar team at the Tour de France.
“Having Mikel in the Tour would be good,” Quintana said. “Mikel is not a rival, he’s a teammate and together with Alejandro, it will be great for us to work together.”
All three riders emphasised that the kerfuffle following Mikel Landa’s recent declaration about the welcome - or lack of it - he got from Quintana in Movistar had been laid to rest.
“Reports of quarrels sell better than reports of everybody being friends,” Landa observed, adding he had been delighted by the welcome he had received in Movistar this week, where there was no language barrier now everyone speaks Spanish.
“There was communication, but I didn’t always get the English sense of humour,” Landa said of his time at Team Sky. ”That made it hard to understand some of the jokes. Here, that’s not a problem."