LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (AFP) — Spanish team Movistar will try to win the Tour de France with a rare trident of ‘three captains’ in Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde.
There has been constant speculation over who the real leader is in the team and the cat finally slipped out of the bag when a Spanish journalist asked the three, “If only one could survive [in a reference to the Sean Connery movie “Highlander”] who would it be?”
The “Highlander” action is based around immortal warriors who can only die in battle with one another.
“All three of us are immortal,” quipped the veteran Valverde. “But it’d be Nairo first, then Mikel and finally, a bit behind, me,” said Valverde, who broke a knee on the 2017 Tour de France opening stage.
“But the idea is to win. To win, to win, to win, and we have a great team and the feeling is that this is the year.”
Team director Eusebio Unzue was also in upbeat and confident mood.
“We always think this is the year but this year even more so,” he said.
When asked who the paramount leader was, he opened his arms wide.
“Oh, how I would love to be in a position to choose which one I would allow to win the Tour de France,” he said. “But chance and circumstance generally play a hand, so let’s see how we are when we have 1,500km under the belt,” he said.
“After this first nine days in the first part of the Tour, we’ll have a look at what shape everyone is in.
“But these three are also intelligent enough and big enough to be honest about it and see which one of them is in the best shape when the big moment comes,” he said.
Trio defends Froome
The tone was jocular until the subject switched to Tour favorite Chris Froome who was jeered by the crowd at Thursday’s presentation of the teams.
“That was a shame, a great, great shame and it should stop because it’s not right,” said Valverde.
Quintana, who is on good terms with Froome and who came second to him on two previous Tours de France also backed the British Sky Team leader.
“They really took it huh?” he said. “That was quite disagreeable for him and I hope this stops, think it will once the racing starts.”
Landa, who switched from Sky to Movistar after helping Froome win last year’s Tour, said his new team was in the same league as Sky.
“We have nothing to be jealous about, but it’s up to us to prove we are as good as them.”
Valverde knows a Tour can be lost on any given day after being caught once in the kind of crosswind expected this week and getting dropped despite four of his team dropping back to help him after a puncture.
“It can be complicated with the wind, the hills, and the cobbles,” said Valverde, who leads a team that will be happier in the mountains.
“On a seafront, or some cobbles, you can get a puncture or get caught up in a fall and really lose some time, you really have to watch out not to lose your Tour like that.”