Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué said on Monday he will lead the Spanish team with Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, and new signing from Team Sky, Mikel Landa. His aim is to stop the streak of Team Sky’s Froome and win with one of his three options.
“We have an option A, but also a B and another C,” Unzué told EFE news agency. “It’s a big advantage. We’ll see if that first part of the race treats us well, then we’ll enter the terrain where our three move very well and we’ll see what happens.”
The Tour de France starts on July 7 with a flat road stage and continues until the first rest day, with a cobbled Roubaix stage beforehand.
Quintana twice finished second overall, but was off his best in 2017 with a 12th place behind Froome. Landa finished fourth overall working for Froome’s win, while Valverde crashed out on day one, but appears back at his best for this July despite being 38-years-old.
Team Sky too has its options. Boss David Brailsford will lead keep recent Critérium du Dauphiné winner Geraint Thomas protected alongside Froome.
“We have to wait a bit for the first rest day to take stock, the road will help us decide who’s the best,” Unzué said. “We can’t ignore Nairo’s consistency, Alejandro has shown his trajectory and Landa gives us reasons to keep hopeful.”
Valverde just won the mountain stage of the Route d’Occitanie and the overall classification. Landa and Quintana struggled somewhat in the Tour de Suisse, but Quintana did threaten the eventual overall victory of Richie Porte (BMC Racing) with a solo mountain stage win.
“I don’t think taking the three will be a problem for Team Movistar, it’ll be more an opportunity,” rival manager at Astana, Giuseppe Martinelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Taking all three to the Tour should be considered a smart decision once you consider that Froome will have the Giro d’Italia in his legs. They just need to have clear ideas and I don’t believe that Unzué lacks those.”
Despite their youth, Martinelli sees 38-year-old Valverde leading Movistar through the three weeks to Paris.
“Who’s going to be the captain? I have to say that I’ve never seen Valverde so convinced like this year that he can go well in Grand Tours. He could win it. In my opinion it’s him who they are aiming for.”
Unzué said that he is unsure if Froome will be at the Tour de France with his ongoing case for asthma drug salbutamol. Froome, though, is free to race in the meantime.
“The whole cycling world would have loved that this case would have been cleared up some time ago, we do not know what’s going to happen to him,” Unzué continued.
“He can ride the Tour without any issue and if he does, he will be in great condition and around him there will be a great team, experienced and with high quality riders.
“If he is on the starting line, he will be the big favourite. Hopefully we have this problem of managing which one of our three we can win the Tour with, but first we have to survive the first nine days. It’s going to be more important than the rivals that we avoid the innumerable traps. The luck factor will be decisive.”