Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has picked Chris Froome (Team Sky) as the headline favourite for this year’s Tour de France but stressed that the four-time winner has possible weaknesses after a super-tough Giro d’Italia.
Valverde returns to the Tour de France twelve months after crashing out in the opening time trial in Germany. He has enjoyed another exceptional start to the season with wins in Valencia, the Abu Dhabi Tour and Catalunya. He recently came out on top in the La Route d'Occitanie, and has remarkably won every stage race that he has entered in 2018. He will lead the line at the Tour de France for Movistar alongside Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa.
“Of course, the top favourite will be Froome,” Valverde recently said at a team press event.
“He's won the Giro and certainly he's spent a lot of energy, yet he's got great potential and is experienced enough to keep a consistent form over two Grand Tours, just like he showed last year. Then there are some riders -Roglic, Porte, Dumoulin, NIbali, Bardet, Urán… who will surely be near him, which we must keep under control. I think the race will be more open this race because Froome wasn't as dominant as in other races at this year's Giro. You could see some weaknesses in him, and he was only able to turn things around into the final weekend."
Froome turned the Giro on its head on the Finestre stage to go from fighting for a podium place to taking the maglia rosa. He has won the last three Grand Tours and is gunning for a fifth Tour de France title this summer.
Movistar will bring their entire GC arsenal to the Tour in a bid to challenge for their first overall title since 2006. Questions have been raised over their decision to bring Valverde, Quintana, and Landa to the same race, and whether the trio can work together in challenging Froome and Team Sky. Valverde, as with Quintana recently, played down any speculation of disharmony within the Spanish team’s ranks, stressing that the leaders would cooperate throughout the three-week race.
“There won't be any problems into the team, we will get on well with each other,” Valverde added.
“Besides, this year's Tour route suits well our strategy of having three leaders. There are some short stages, many difficult days... Launching one of us on the attack will hurt our rivals and create some uncertainty. We have to play those cards. I don't know if we'll win, but surely we'll offer some fireworks.”