No Tour de France for Valverde as Quintana and Landa lead

Movistar have confirmed their three top leaders' Grand Tour program for 2019, with Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa heading to the Tour de France whilst World Champion Alejandro Valverde will be present at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.

Speaking at the Movistar Team launch in Madrid on Tuesday morning, longstanding general manager Eusebio Unzue made it clear there would be no repeat of the team's unsuccessful line-up of their three best-known racers at the Tour de France in 2019.

Instead, Valverde heads back to the Giro d'Italia, where he finished on the podium in 2016, and next May he and Landa will be the Spanish squad's contenders. Landa will then move onto the Tour de France, whilst Quintana and Valverde, both former winners of the Vuelta a España, will once again be present in Spain's Grand Tour next August.

"The objective," Unzue told reporters, "is to win a Grand Tour," - a mission last achieved by Movistar with Nairo Quintana in the 2016 Vuelta a España. He also recognised that the wins by young Movistar riders Richard Carapaz and Marc Soler in the Giro d'Italia and Paris-Nice "boded well for the future," and highlighted the team's 27 wins, but said that both Landa and Quintana had been unlucky in the Grand Tours in 2018, too.

Unzue also highlighted Movistar women's team and their promising competitive debut last season.

"Quintana and Landa did not fulfil expectations last season, but all that will change," Unzue said according to Spanish news agency EFE.

Valverde's absence from the Tour de France means that the reigning World Champion will not be present in cycling's top stage race for the first time since Paolo Bettini in 2008 and 2007. The Spanish veteran hinted strongly even before last season had ended that he would not be present in France's Grand Tour next summer. However, another possibility, that Valverde would take part in the Santos Tour Down Under, appears to have been shelved, with the Mallorca one-day races in January being Valverde's starting point for the season.

Valverde reminded the audience during the presentation that Movistar had very recently renewed their contract with the team until 2021.

Nairo Quintana insisted during the Movistar Team presentation that he would be aiming high in 2019, despite his rollercoaster 2018 season where he failed to make the podium of a Grand Tour for the first time since 2012. "My ambitions remain intact, and the idea is to succeed in a major objective, just as Eusebio [Unzue] has said," Quintana claimed.

Mikel Landa said he was looking forward to his return to the Giro d'Italia, where he took his only podium finish to date in a Grand Tour back in 2015. "I'm just hoping to stay healthy in 2019, and if I can do that, the rest of it will come naturally."

The team is also set to celebrate its 40th year in the peloton in 2019, having started off with as the Reynolds squad way back in 1980.

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