Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzue said that his team are considering the possibility of racing the Vuelta a España with all three of their leaders, Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.
Unzue has already publicly mulled over the idea of having Movistar's three top riders race in the 2018 Tour de France in November. Now the 2018 Vuelta a España could see a repeat of the same strategy.
"All three could be there [in the Vuelta]," Unzue told Cyclingnews during the Vuelta a España presentation. “We’re not ruling it out. The calendar has not been completely defined for all three, but there's a possibility that they all do it. Definitely two, probably three."
Valverde, he agreed, has an emotional attachment to the Vuelta a España because of the first week’s stint on his home roads in Murcia. So has Landa, with a key stage in his native Basque Country, and Quintana, who won the race outright in 2016.
How exactly Movistar, with three top stage racers in their line-up, would divide up the Grand Tour calendar has been the subject of much debate.
In 2017, with Valverde absent through injury and Quintana having already raced the Giro and Tour, Movistar had to rethink their strategy for the Vuelta and field a youthful line up.
"It was a great opportunity for the young riders in our team to get a good chance in the Grand Tours and they did it very well. We were looking towards the future," Unzue said. In 2018, however, the odds are that Movistar will return with three potential winners.
During the Vuelta a España presentation, Landa confirmed to reporters that he would be returning to the Spanish Grand Tour where he won the toughest stage – also in Andorra – in 2015. Valverde also said that the Vuelta, which he won in 2009, would be on his programme again. Neither rider is expected to do the Giro d'Italia.
This only leaves Quintana to make his plans clear. He said that he would focus on the Tour in 2018, and another tilt at the Giro-Tour double has been postponed indefinitely by the Colombian, but the 2016 Vuelta a España winner has not yet said whether he will return to Spain's Grand Tour.
Regarding the Vuelta route itself, Unzue told Cyclingnews, "It's what you'd expect. It's very tough, there are a lot of days where you can lose the race. In a usual Grand Tour of 21 days, there are maybe six or seven days that are key, but in the Vuelta, every year there are 13 or 14."
Asked how he rated his team's chances globally, Unzue said, "If there's one thing you need to be on a route like this, it's to be a good climber. But it's sure to be a spectacular race, a great one for the fans, and there's a lot of terrain to suit the most recent winners of the Grand Tours. But it's one for great climbers, that's for sure."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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