Valverde to play support role for Quintana at Tour de France

Movistar have confirmed the riders that will support Nairo Quintana as he attempts to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France.

Newly crowned Spanish road race champion Alejandro Valverde will play a key support role for Quintana while providing the team with a plan B should anything go wrong. A winner at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Valverde will be a strong ally for Quintana in the first week and in the key mountain stages. 

It is a reversal of roles from Quintana’s first appearance at the Tour in 2013, where he played the domestique role to his more experienced teammate. Then some bad luck for Valverde in the crosswinds gave the young Colombian his chance to shine and he eventually finished second overall behind Chris Froome (Team Sky). Quintana went on to win the 2014 Giro d’Italia and this year marks a changing of the guard for the Movistar team but they have not totally discounted Valverde’s chances.

"Our leadership is clear: Nairo is the team's main reference on the road,” said team manager Eusebio Unzué, when revealing the nine-rider line-up. “However, and knowing how this race works and all the circumstances you can go through during a Tour de France, we can't rule out Alejandro staying by his side and also keeping his chances alive (which are the whole team's), until the facts show otherwise."

Quintana has had an unassuming build-up to the Tour de France, finishing second to Alberto Contador at the Route du Sud earlier in June. He's had one stage race victory in 2015, finding success at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. Unlike many of his rivals, Quintana decided to take a look at the opening week's crucial pavé under racing conditions. The Colombian rode both Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, as Valverde did in 2014.

With a key team time trial in the opening week, Movistar have opted for some strength against the clock, including three national time trial champions. Spanish and Italian champions Jonathan Castroviejo and Adriano Malori return to the race while British champion Alex Dowsett makes his Tour de France debut after being overlooked in 2014 when the Tour started in Yorkshire. Following his fourth time trial victory at the national championships, Dowsett was still in the dark about his participation and said that he believed his successful Hour Record attempt in May could hold him back.

Also making his debut at the Tour de France is Winner Anacona, who moved to the team this winter from Lampre-Merida. The Colombian has completed four Grand Tours in his career and won a stage of the Vuelta last year. Completing the line-up are experienced domestiques Imanol Erviti, Gorka Izagirre and José Herrada.

“It's the most balanced squad and the one that brought us everything we needed in all terrains," said Unzué. "I already stated before the Giro that building the nine-man squad for Italy had already been really difficult, but seeing the names we had left out shows that doing so for the Tour was even harder. We start with riders ascribed to three different roles: a more climbing group, with Winner and José; all-rounders like Gorka or Jonathan, useful in all situations; and talented rouleurs like Alex, Adriano or Imanol, who will keeps us calm into the flat stages.”

Movistar for the Tour de France: Nairo Quintana (Col), Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa), Gorka Izagirre (Spa), José Herrada (Spa), Adriano Malori (Ita), Alex Dowsett (GBr) and Winner Anacona (Col)

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