Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde gave two thumbs up to today's 2016 Tour de France route announcement, agreeing that the mountainous parcours and extended time trials could favour the Movistar duo that shared this year's final podium in paris with winner Chris Froome (Team Sky).
"It's a good parcours for us," Quintana said in a statement released by his team. "I think the mountains really suit us, plenty of them on the course with some finishes I know and shone in in the past, like Mont Ventoux or Morzine. Also, from what I could see, the long ITT isn't completely flat, so it shouldn't be bad for us."
The 2016 Tour de France will visit the Pyrenees, Mont Ventoux, the Alps and Bern in Switzerland, with a rolling 37km individual time trial into the Gorges de l'Ardeche valley on stage 13 and a mountain time trial between Sallanches and Megève on stage 18 separating the nine mountain stages and four mountain top finishes.
With no cobbled stage, no prologue time trial or team time trial, the 2016 Tour de France seems tilted in favour of the climbers.
"The first part of the race will be as nervous as usual," Valverde said. "Though it will be a little bit less stressful as we don't have any cobblestones to tackle and wind shouldn't be a huge problem except for stages 1 and 2. The Pyrenees and Andorra climbs will bring some suffering before the first rest day, and together with the Mont Ventoux, I think they might set things really straight early into the race.
"However, with those two demanding TTs and the restless final week, it can really suit us the whole team and Nairo well."
Quintana, who was runner-up to Froome last year, said an 'easier' first week will allow him and his team to keep their focus as they approach the opening days with more confidence.
"What I really miss on this year's route is the TTT," he added. "It really favoured us on previous editions, as we could fight for the stage win and take a bit of a gap over our rivals. It's a shame we won't ride it this time."
Team manager Eusebio Unzué praised the organisers for leaving out any cobbled sections this year, but he joined Quintana in lamenting the lack of a team time trial.
"It's great to get off a bit of stress we suffered with the pavé, which was hard for both favourites and the rest of the peloton," Unzué said. "However, I'm still missing a team time trial - it's not that it suits us well, rather than being a spectacular effort which a three-week stage race, which offers everyone a chance to excel, shouldn't leave out in my opinion."
Overall, though, Quintana was pleased with a somewhat new approach for the Tour route.
"More than the Tour, this route reminds me of the Vuelta a España or even the Giro, with hard stages all over the three weeks of racing," he said. "But our form approach must remain the same: starting off in good condition and keeping or improving it over the course of the race. We have to take care about ourselves the best we can - overtraining and losing that bit of fitness at the end of the race would be a big mistake."
While Quintana is committed to the Tour de France next year, the team was unclear on whether Valverde would return to defend or improve his third-place overall. Quintana said Valverde's presence would be a boost to the team, and Unzué acknowledged that logic says Valverde should be there. But the team manager added that it was too early to talk about the team's 2016 approach.
Valverde said he was unsure how he would approach 2016, admitting that he hadn't yet spoken thoroughly with Unzue or Quintana.
"How I will face this Tour? Maybe not as focused as in previous seasons - though I haven't still spoken thoroughly about it with neither Eusebio nor Nairo, the plan is having him taking over the team leadership," the 35-year-old Spaniard said.
"It might be different for me, maybe more focused on the Olympics. Still, I don't know if I'll ride the Vuelta a España, the Giro d'Italia, how my calendar will be … we must wait and decide it with the team in the upcoming weeks before defining our 2016 schedule."
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