Welcome to the VeloNews 2017 WorldTour fan guide. It’s tough to be a cycling fan. Riders jump around more than a loose cassette. Teams change kits like Sven Nys swaps bikes in a muddy ’cross race. So, here’s a guide to your new favorite team. Don’t like these guys? Stay tuned for more previews.
Your team: Movistar
Your team’s fans: Colombia! España! On one hand, Movistar has Colombia’s favorite cycling son, Nairo Quintana, who is adored by his countrymen and women. On the other, Movistar is the last major team standing in Spain after every other WorldTour squad closed shop due to the financial and doping crises of the early 2000s. Plus, there are patrons of Rory Sutherland’s new cafe. Also, this dolphin is a huge fan of Alejandro Valverde:
Your team’s star: At long last, it is clear that Quintana is the (little) big boss at Movistar. In 2016, Valverde gave his young teammate unqualified support in the Tour de France. Unfortunately, Quintana wasn’t at his best. We remember watching his wimpy little attack at the base of Mt. Ventoux and thinking, “Wait, is this the same guy from last year? ” Luckily, Quintana rebounded with his exciting Vuelta win, which we will someday tell our grandkids about (yeah, it was that good).
Regardless of who the team’s true star is, I think we can agree that they need a bit of a PR makeover to spice things up in 2017. Quintana is likable but stoic — who is this mysterious little climber (well, you can read all about him here)? Valverde is immensely successful but tainted by a two-year ban after the Operacion Puerto doping investigation. Plus, he’s a notorious wheel-sucker. Movistar should develop an inter-generational buddy comedy featuring Valverde, 36, and Quintana, 26.
“Hey Nairo, do you remember what you were doing back in 2003; you know, when you were 13? I remember that year: I won a silver medal at worlds, and I still had hair!”
“Yeah that’s pretty cool, Alejandro, but dude, what is up with the man purse?!”
“Lay off it, Nairo, that’s a European carry-all!”
One thing is certain: This will have to be the show’s theme music (sorry Nairo).
Best-case scenario: Quintana wins the Giro and the Tour. Yep, I went there. Sure, the 2017 Giro will be brutal, but the tough climbing suits him, and he’s won the race before. Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect him to beat Chris Froome and Sky at the Tour, but the Brits have had an unbelievable run of good luck in recent years. What if things go sideways in France this time around? What if the recent allegations of TUE misuse and mystery packages gets their English undies in a bundle? You never know.
In addition to Quintana’s grand tour dominance, Valverde wins a record fifth La Flèche Wallonne and rides to a podium in the Vuelta, his ninth career grand tour podium.
And since we are getting greedy here with this best-case scenario, Alex Dowsett also breaks the hour record, Carlos Betancur gets his groove back and wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Jonathan Castroviejo wins a few major time trials. Ser pan comido!
Worst-case scenario: Movistar had a really solid 2016 with 36 wins, but 20 of those came on the backs of Quintana, Valverde, and Ion Izagirre, who is now with Bahrain – Merida. So if Quintana gets overwhelmed by Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali, who are both yearning to win the 100th edition of the Giro, and then gets steamrolled (again) by Sky and Froome; if Valverde finally starts to show his age and lays an egg, and if Betancur keeps getting fat in the off-season, it’ll be a rough year.
Given Quintana and Valverde’s class, it’s unlikely that both of them will come up short in 2017. Unfortunately, Movistar’s bench isn’t particularly deep with alternate leaders. The Spanish squad would have to resort to stage-hunting with riders like Imanol Erviti, JJ Lobato, or aging sprinter Daniele Bennati, who won 11 grand tour stages in his day.
Likability rating: 6/10. Purely based on racing merit, it’s hard to dislike Movistar — Quintana attacks with ferocity and style in the grand tour mountains; Valverde unleashes an astounding kick at the finish of hilly one-day classics. Maybe the problem is our rudimentary Spanish, but Movistar seems to lack some personality. As we mentioned earlier, fans who remember the bad-old-days will also hold a grudge against Valverde. If team brass managed to get “The Green Bullet” back on a jet ski ahead of the 2017 races, it would be a step in the right direction.