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Vuelta a Espana

Movistar braces for post-Valverde era as Enric Mas races for redemption at the Vuelta a España

Team boss Unzué confident in team backing for 2023 as it dangles above WorldTour 'relegation zone.'

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PUERTO DE NAVACERRADA, Spain (VN) – Team Movistar is at a tipping point.

The stalwart Spanish squad will see the retirement of long-time team talisman Alejandro Valverde at the close of the season and is facing the prospect of life in the second-tier of pro cycling.

Team boss Eusebio Unzué remains optimistic for the team’s stability in the face of an uncertain near-future.

Unzué told EFE he’s confident in the team’s finances for next season and is pushing for increased backing as he builds around Vuelta a España star and long-term signing Enric Mas.

“There is no option but to opt for other first leaders, but we have peace of mind seeing Enric Mas extended,” Unzué said. “The team will be built around Enric. We will have some reinforcements, but 75 percent of the team has a contract. We will incorporate four or five new faces.”

Movistar has been quiet on the sponsor market so far this summer. Unzué will be looking to add experience to Mas’ grand tour crew with the exit of Valverde and uncertainty over fellow veteran Spaniard José Joaquín Rojas.

Mas is central to Movistar’s ambition in more ways than one.

Currently second overall at the Vuelta a España, a top GC placing by the Mallorcan could effectively seal his team’s future in the WorldTour as it dangles precariously close to the UCI “relegation zone.”

“There are a lot of races and seven or eight teams in danger of going down,” Unzué said, as well as asking the UCI to “rethink the points system and allow the current 20 teams to continue on the WorldTour.”