Movistar’s Tour de France motto: if the first rider doesn’t succeed, try a second rider and if they don’t succeed, try a third. One way or another or three, they plan to attack Team Sky’s Chris Froome and try to win the yellow jersey for one of them.
Will it be twice-runner-up Nairo Quintana or cagey vet Alejandro Valverde or the ambitous new signing (and former Froome domestique) Miekl Landa? Who knows and that’s the whole point of the strategy — get the Briton guessing.
“this year’s Tour route suits well our strategy of having three leaders,” said Valverde. “Launching one of us on the attack will hurt our rivals and create some uncertainty. We have to play those cards. I don’t know if we’ll win, but surely we’ll offer some fireworks.”
Fireworks, card games, a game of tag-you’re-it. Sounds like an exciting Tour for the Spanish superteam. With a Tour de France route that’s filled with surprises including a mini-Paris-Roubaix adventure on stage 9, it may well be that the three headed Movistar monster is the perfect set-up for overall victory.
That’s if the plan holds together and the ambitions of Landa and Quintana don’t create internal conflicts. The “play nice together” theme has been a consistent message for the last nine months but it’s easy to say the right things when nothing is on the line.
Last year Landa missed the third step of the Tour podium by one second — a second he could easily have had if he hadn’t been under strict orders from Sky to devote himself 100% to Froome. The Basque rider is still bitter about that and has made it clear that will never, ever happen again.
“I’d like to fight for the Tour victory, but we’ve yet to start the race and see how I can really do,” said Landa. “My aim is to fight for important results until the very last day.”
For his part, Nairo Quintana has made no bones that he still views himself as the undisputed captain of Movistar. The only reason he says the word harmony and repeats the cycling cliche that “the road will decide” is that he’s damn sure he’ll be faster up the mountain than Landa.
The 38 year old Valverde would not seem to be a true threat for overall victory, but he’s not a rider you’d want to let go up the road and gain five minutes because you were more concerned with Landa and Quintana.
Valverde is the wildcard and a useful launchpad for the other two Movistar climbers. He’s too old to create friction within the team and will be the cool head that keeps everyone together as much as possible. “There won’t be any problems into the team. We will get on well with each other,” he said.
Well, let’s hope so — and the good news is that either way there will be fireworks. The kind that blow up a team of the kind that blow up Froome.