Alejandro Valverde says he believes his Movistar team-mate Nairo Quintana will come into the Tour de France stronger after his Giro d’Italia campaign, as he prepares to ride in full support of Quintana at the Tour.
Quintana finished second in the Giro d’Italia in May behind Tom Dumoulin, falling at the first hurdle in an ambitious Giro-Tour double.
The Colombian will now head to the Tour having not raced since the Giro finished on May 28, but Valverde believes that will suit him, citing his successful win at the Vuelta a España as proof that Quintana will perform better in his second Grand Tour of the year.
“I see Nairo very focused on the task,” Valverde said.
“He’s training well, he’s keeping his mind fresh, and even though it’s true he’s tackling the Giro-Tour double for the first time, he’s always done better at the second Grand Tour in the past when he took on the Tour-Vuelta one.
“I don’t feel like it should be a problem for him.”
Quintana will face one of his toughest challenges yet the Tour. Not only will he have to try and end the dominance of Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the race, but he’ll have to beat an on form Richie Porte (BMC), two-time winner Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), last year’s second place Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), as well as Orica-Scott pair Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves if he’s to claim a maiden maillot jaune.
37-year-old Valverde, who rode both the Tour and the Vuelta in support of Quintana in 2016 as well as finishing third in the Giro that year, believes Porte is looking the strongest of their rivals, but Froome still has to be considered favourite for a fourth overall victory.
“At this very moment, it seems like Richie Porte is a bit stronger than the rest, but in a 21-day event, everything can change a thousand times,” Valverde said.
“Froome has shown his quality during the past few years, and with his previous wins in the race we must consider him the strongest favourite, even if it’s true that he hasn’t shown to be as superior to the rest as he did in the past.
“Also Alberto, who knows how to approach the race in full condition; Bardet, who finished second last season – I think all favourites are pretty much close, and that should make for an open race, exciting for the fans.”
Valverde, who’s best overall result at the Tour was a third place finish in 2015, added that he’ll be looking to lose as little time on GC as possible as well “because it serves our team’s strategical interest”, and says that he’s now learnt not to fear the Tour after a successful past few years at the race.
“I really respect the Tour,” Valverde added, “but I don’t have any fear to it anymore.”
“I’ve really got hold of how it works during the last few years. I’m not only excited about riding it, but also certain about what I can do for the team – just as much as my team-mates are.”
The 2017 Tour de France begins on Saturday, July 1 with a 14km individual time trial in Düsseldorf, Germany.