Tour de France 2013: Valverde leads Movistar into battle

Quintana and Rui Costa also included

As expected Alejandro Valverde will lead Movistar at the Tour de France, which starts June 29 on the island of Corsica. The former Vuelta winner will be backed up by a strong line-up including Nairo Quintana and Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa.

“Our goal is to try and get Alejandro on the overall podium,” said team manager Eusebio Unzué, who guided Miguel Indurain, Pedro Delgado and Oscar Pereiro to Tour de France glory in the past.

Valverde, now 33, won a stage in last year’s Tour de France but failed to make an impression on the overall classification. His return to racing came after serving a two-year ban for a doping offence. However Unzué believes that the climber, who went on to finish second in last year’s Vuelta a Espana, has a chance of claiming a podium spot this year.

“It is his biggest ambition this year, and we have put all our efforts together this season to have him fit to contest it. The last tests during the Spanish road championships show us we have achieved it - he's coming in perfect form. I think he hasn't been capable of reaching further steps in the Tour more as a matter of bad luck than anything else. I'm convinced he has a Tour podium in his legs, and this must be his chance,” he said.

One rider who has been marked a potential successor to Valverde’s leadership is Quintana. The Colombian has not raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April but the 23-year-old enjoyed a fine spring campaign.

“We have to be cautious about Nairo. I think he created such big expectations due to his impressive results, but I don't think he's prepared for us to put on his shoulders such a massive responsibility of fighting for the Tour overall,” said Unzué.

“This team's philosophy has always been letting young riders grow behind another leader, and we were lucky enough to be right. I won't be putting pressure on him - we can't risk putting him into risks and losing him. I want him to know the race, to learn. This will be a learning course for him alongside Alejandro. We also have Rui Costa: we will see how he keeps progressing - he's still young but has much experience, and we can't rule him out. I'm sure he will be doing a great Tour and, why not, taking a big leap forward.

“Apart from those three, we have a strong, balanced, experienced group. Grown men like Iván, Imanol, Plaza or Rojas, with many GT's in their careers, the guardian-angels for Alejandro. Plus, two men less experienced, but in great form and which I'm sure will do a great Tour, such as Amador and Castroviejo.”

Movistar team for the 2013 Tour de France:

Alejandro Valverde, Rui Costa, Nairo Quintana, Andrey Amador, Jonathan Castroviejo, Rubén Plaza, Imanol Erviti, Iván Gutiérrez and José Joaquín Rojas.

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