MADRID (AFP) — Movistar announced Thursday all three of its top riders — Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, and the newly signed Mikel Landa — will team up to ride the 2018 Tour de France.
The squad is considered to be the closest rival to British team Sky, and its Tour lineup represents Movistar’s strongest assault on the yellow jersey yet.
The Spanish outfit snapped up climbing specialist Landa from Sky in August, with the objective of ending Sky and Chris Froome’s grip on the Tour. However, Movistar’s task could be made much easier if Froome is sanctioned for an adverse drug test result during his Vuelta a Espana victory in September.
Froome had twice the permissible amount of asthma medication Salbutamol in his system during the race, it was revealed this week. It’s unclear whether the UCI will find Froome at fault and suspend him or if he will be exonerated.
Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzue said his riders have “the ideal profile to believe in winning the Tour, which is one of the few races we have still to win.”
Quintana has won both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta and has twice finished runner-up to Froome at the Tour, in 2013 and 2015. However, the Colombian finished a disappointing 12th this year after loading his schedule with the Giro d’Italia in May, where he finished second to Tom Dumoulin, followed by the Tour.
Quintana will start his 2018 season on home soil at the Colombia Oro y Paz race, scheduled for Feb. 6-11.
Valverde will make his return from a broken kneecap suffered at the Tour de France at the Mallorca Challenge at the end of January, while Landa will wait until the Tour of Andalusia, Feb. 14-18, to make his Movistar debut.