Movistar close to the mark at Challenge Mallorca

Entering the second month of the New Year and the Movistar squad is actively hunting its first win in Spain. The team came close with its sprinter José Joaquín Rojas at yesterday’s Trofeo Migjorn, taking the final podium spot but it’s the early season victory that often serves to set the tone for the opening races of the year.

Around this time last season Alejandro Valverde was winning a stage in Australia at the Tour Down Under and would have won the overall, if not for Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) taking the title on count-back. With a full season of racing behind him - after serving time away from the competition for anti-doping infringements - the former Vuelta a España winner can enjoy a slower start to the year.

Valverede’s teammates however, have been full-tilt at the four-day event and have once again demonstrated the strength of the squad as a whole. The team finished with two riders in the top-ten at the opening round’s Trofeo Palma before placing three inside the top-six at Migjorn. Those who raced Migjorn, including Rojas and new recruit Alex Dowsett voiced their motivation to get the first victory run on the board soon.

"First podium of the year with a great work by the entire Movistar Team, thank you and the first [win] will come soon," Rojas said on Twitter.

"Good day today, got a bit excited in the lead out and cooked myself a touch early. @ jjrojillas 3rd though, happy days #onwardsandupwards," Dowsett tweeted.

Valverde decided to sit out the sprinter-friendly 167km race ahead of today’s Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana where he will be joined by nine teammates. These early year races will form part of his lead-up to the Tour de France where he believes his best is yet to come.

"I have won Tour stages and finished sixth (2007) and eighth (2008) overall, which is fine because it is not easy," said Valverde to "But I think I can still be ahead and do my best Tour.

"After Mallorca, perhaps Algarve, then Murcia, Basque Country and the classics, where I look forward to the Amstel Gold Race, in which I have been third. Before the Tour I will go to the Tour of Switzerland. Then Tour of Spain and where it suits me very well but before that there is still a lot and a lot can happen. We have just started!"

Valverde will form part of Movistar’s 10-man squad for today’s hillier race that serves-up the first-category Col de Puig Major inside the final 20km.

The team for the 152km race: Andrey Amador, Rui Costa, Beñat Intxausti, Imanol Erviti, Pablo Lastras, Ángel Madrazo, Ruben Plaza, Enrique Sanz, Giovanni Visconti and Alejandro Valverde.


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