WorldTour ranking: 1st (Same as last year)
Win count: 32 (Down from 33)
Top riders: Alejandro Valverde (first) Nairo Quintana (third), Jon Izagirre (30th), Andrey Amador (50th) and Benat Intxausti (53rd).
For the third year running, Movistar dominated the WorldTour rankings and sailed to victory in the team classification. Alejandro Valverde’s win over Joaquim Rodriguez in the individual standings gave them their second consecutive double.
Despite turning 35 earlier this year, Valverde proved again to be the source of much of the team’s success. Nairo Quintana’s victories at the Tour de France and Tirreno-Adriatico saw him end the season third in the WorldTour standings, while Jon Izaguirre’s surprise Tour de Pologne win contributed greatly to their overall performance.
Consistency and being able to rely on two strong leaders has been the key for the Spanish outfit in retaining their position at the top of the WorldTour rankings in 2015. While they have 22 fewer victories than Etixx-QuickStep, who top those particular standings, they have placed highly in key races throughout the season and their double podium at the Tour de France gave them more points than Chris Froome earned for winning it overall.
Among the team’s high points where Quintana’s overall win at Tirreno-Adriatico and Valverde’s victories at Fleche Wallonne and Liege Bastogne Liege – their first monument win since Valverde won the same event in 2008. Alex Dowsett’s brief stint as the World Hour record holder was another highlight for the team. Other key performers this year were Benat Intxausti, Jon Izagirre, Adriano Malori and Juan Jose Lobato. Movistar also earned their first World Championship medal when they finished third in the team time trial in Richmond.
It can’t be glossed over, however, that they failed to add a Grand Tour victory to their total in 2015. They were undoubtedly the strongest overall team at the Tour de France but perhaps their decision to hedge their bets between Quintana and Valverde cost them that. The team have vehemently denied this, and we will never know what the result would have been if their tactics were any different. Froome may still have had the upper hand on Quintana. When it came to the Vuelta a Espana, the pair looked exhausted from their Tour de France exploits and both missed out on the podium.
Nevertheless, to take the team prize for the third year running is a commendable achievement. There will be some changes to the line-up next season, but that shouldn’t hold them back.
What to expect in 2016
More of the same, please. The team’s main targets will likely be much the same as they were in 2015, beginning with the early season stage races and the Ardennes Classics, followed by the Tour de France. With another year's experience under his belt, there will be very high expectations on Quintana going into the French Grand Tour. The route is well suited to him, and it has to be one of his best chances yet to take to that top step. Failure to do so would be a bitter disappointment to the team.
Movistar have been pretty quiet in the transfer market in comparison to some of their major counterparts, with just four riders joining the team. Two of those, Carlos Betancur and Dani Moreno, stand out in that small bunch.
Betancur has been a temperamental character, but he has shown potential with his fifth place at the 2013 Giro d’Italia. One of his biggest problems has been leaving his native Colombia behind to train and race in Europe. With three other Colombians on their roster for 2016, Movistar should be much better placed to manage this and bring out the best in Betancur. If they can do that, then he could be a serious contender in the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a Espana.
At 34, Moreno is getting on a bit but his performance at Il Lombardia showed that he can still produce the goods. He will be a good second option to Valverde in the Ardennes and may also play a support role for Quintana at the Tour de France.
Losing Benat Intxausti to Team Sky will be a bitter blow for Movistar. The Basque rider, who has been with the team since 2011, has been key towards the team’s success. He showed promise as a Grand Tour contender himself and finished eighth in the 2013 Giro d’Italia, although he has sacrificed his own ambitions for the team’s main leaders.
Despite this, he’s enjoyed some big victories, including two stages of the Giro d’Italia - one of which came at this year’s edition. Intxausti also placed in the top five overall at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, the Vuelta a Andalucia and the Criterium du Dauphiné. His loss will be felt biggest at the Tour de France, where he was a big part of Quintana’s support team.
Man to watch
Alongside the two new signings that we’ve already mentioned, the youthful Marc Soler will be a rider to keep an eye on in 2016. The 21-year-old joined the team for 2015 and used his newly gained experience to take victory at the Tour de l’Avenir. Soler will be one of three winners of the race to be riding on the team, after 2010 victor Quintana and 2013 champion Ruben Fernandez.
Soler still extremely young but he has already been showing some brief glimpses of promise in short stage races and we can expect that only to improve in 2016.
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