Team Movistar says that it has two overall leaders for now in the Vuelta a España: Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, second and third in the Tour de France behind Chris Froome. A decision on who will take control is expected soon, with the younger Quintana likely to take the reins of the Spanish team.
They already faced their first test on Sunday’s stage two in Caminito del Rey, where Quintana attacked immediately and Valverde, hoping to win the stage, faded. Valverde would not speak after the stage, but Quintana underlined his Vuelta aims.
“I’m here to win,” the small 25-year-old Colombian said.
Quintana placed second to Froome in the Tour de France twice, in July and two years ago in 2013. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia. In the Vuelta, though, he has yet to have luck.
Last year, he was due to lead his team through the three weeks in Spain, but crashed in the time trial and abandoned. Even if 35-year-old Valverde has more experience with seven podium finishes in Grand Tours including his 2009 Vuelta win, it appears Quintana will lead eventually if all goes to plan.
“We will see about leadership,” Quintana added. “We are both in good shape.”
Movistar, as when a team often has two strong leaders, are sticking with the line: “We will let the road decide the leader.”
They are convinced the two can live together “sin problem.” At the Tour, they raced side-by-side and both reached the podium behind Froome. At the Vuelta last year, Valverde went on to third overall after Quintana returned to Colombia. In the 2012 Vuelta, his first Grand Tour, Quintana worked for Valverde.
“It’s important that the two captains are well, and at this moment, they are and have the goal of the classification,” Team Manager Eusebio Unzué told Cycling Weekly this morning.
“Nairo knows that he’s in an ideal situation, and it’s the same for the team. It’s not difficult to go for one rider or another. It’s not a problem of who is the leader of the team because when the classification gets sorted, it’ll be clear.”
Quintana’s first obstacle could be the nearly 40km individual time trial to Burgos in the final week. If he loses less than one-and-a-half minutes or less, Unzué will be happy.
“The time trial, that’s where he’s always lacking,” Unzué said. “In the climbs, which he showed in the Alps at the Tour, he can stay there or drop Froome.”