Giro d'Italia

Movistar giving its support riders a starring role in Giro

The squad will look for stage wins and a top-10 GC finish at the Italian grand tour, which rolls out May 9

Defending champion Nairo Quintana might not be coming back, but Movistar won’t be taking the Giro d’Italia laying down.

With Quintana focused on a bid for the Tour de France, the Spanish team brings a balanced, competitive squad to the Giro, but one without a clear favorite for overall victory.

Team boss Eusebio Unzué is giving his second-tier riders, who often support team captains Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, a chance to shine at the Giro.

Movistar will bring Beñat Intxausti, Ion Izagirre and Jesús Herrada as possible GC candidates, and Juanjo Lobato as its sprinter. Stage wins and a top-10 GC finish are the team’s realistic goals for the season’s first grand tour.

“This Giro should be the confirmation of Beñat, it’s a race he already knows, and he’s done well, finishing in the top-10 before,” Unzué said in a team release. “Ion and Jesús should also be able to build on their big successes so far … In general, not having to contest for the overall from the start of the race will give us a chance to ride with freedom, and make a ‘classic’ out of every stage.”

Movistar left off such riders as Eros Capecchi and Javi Moreno as it whittled down the team for the nine-man roster. Capecchi often suffers from allergies, and will likely race the Tour de France instead, while Moreno will have the chance to lead at other races and have a stronger role at the Vuelta a España later this season.

Last year, Quintana lit up the Giro, gaining the pink jersey in the controversial, snow-riddled stage over the Stelvio, and went on to become the first Colombian to win the Italian grand tour.

This year, Movistar will be riding to shake up the race, but without the pressure of pre-race favorites such as Sky or Tinkoff-Saxo. Instead, the team will be looking to pick up UCI WorldTour points with stage wins and strong placings.

“I hope this Giro confirms him as a top sprinter,” Unzué said of Lobato. “I think he has many chances to succeed. Andrey [Amador] has got experience, good form, and is a super ‘joker’ for any kind of stage.”