Movistar, with team leaders Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa, welcome a “more open” 2019 Tour de France without Chris Froome (Ineos) competing due to a crash.
Froome crashed training in the Critérium du Dauphiné and fractured his femur, elbow and ribs. The four-time winner will not take the start line on Saturday in Brussels.
“We will try to take advantage of the form and the experience of Nairo and Mikel,” said team boss Eusebio Unzué.
“One has a collection of podiums, another has climbed to win and close again many times, and is in great form at this point. We are fortunate to start with two clear options to search for the title.
“We are ambitious in a difficult Tour, like everyone else, and a Tour that is more open for Froome’s absence.”
Froome won the 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 editions. Last year, he placed third overall while helping team-mate Geraint Thomas win the overall title.
It is unclear how long the Brit will be out of action due to the severity of his injuries. This week he left the hospital but still has yet to return home.
Team Ineos leads again with Welshman Geraint Thomas and 22-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal. Bernal just won the Tour de Suisse, but is only racing his second Grand Tour after debuting in the Tour in 2018.
Asked about his potential rivals, Quintana said, “One of the Ineos riders.”
Without Froome in Brussels., Quintana may feel free to finally capture his first Tour victory.
Quintana, 29, rode his first Tour in 2013 and placed second overall to Froome, placing second overall again in 2015. In 2016, he placed third and later won the Vuelta a España ahead of Froome.
“I think we arrived in good condition, we have worked well this year,” Quintana said. “I hope luck will be with us.”
Quintana this year won a stage in the Tour Colombia and placed second overall in Paris-Nice, before June’s Critérium du Dauphiné in ninth.
Landa rode the Giro d’Italia as leader in May and placed fourth overall, but has not raced since the Giro’s end in Verona. However, he trained in the last week with Nairo while previewing the many mountain stages of the 2019 Tour.
“I finished very well in Italy, with strength, and I recovered very well,” said Landa. “The numbers say that I feel good. I come well prepared and motivated. “