Movistar adds climbing prospect to close 2016 squad

With a pair of stars at the helm and a very impressive supporting cast, Movistar is sticking to its proven recipe for success.

Spanish super team Movistar is sticking to its proven base of Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana as it pedals into 2016, while augmenting an already strong roster with a few new names as well.

Spain’s lone WorldTour team added promising climbing talent Antonio Pedrero (Inteja-MMR) to close out its 2016 roster with 27 riders.

The arrival of Pedrero, 24, a winner of several Spanish amateur races as well as a stage and third overall at the Vuelta a Guadalupe this summer, marks the fifth and final new rider for Movistar for 2016.

The Spanish team’s focus for next season remains on Tour de France runner-up Quintana and WorldTour winner Valverde.

“With two times second in the Tour de France, it’s obvious that Nairo has the qualities to win the yellow jersey,” said Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué in an earlier interview. “We are going to build a team to help him in the Tour without forgetting the other important races of the season.”

Quintana recently confirmed that the Tour will be his top goal for 2016, with the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and the Vuelta a España as other season highlights. Valverde, off one of his best seasons ever, could start the Giro d’Italia for the first time of his career, but the climber-friendly Olympic course in Rio also might see Valverde on a similar program as Quintana’s.

The team will discuss its 2016 goals and calendar at its first pre-season training camp at Castillo Gorráiz in northern Spain next week.

After enjoying another solid 2015 season, Movistar didn’t look for any major changes. Pedrero and Spanish amateur Jorge Arcas (Lizarte) help give the team some fresh legs, while it signed three solid veterans with Dani Moreno (Katusha), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida).

Moreno, 34, was the right-hand man of Joaquim Rodríguez at Katusha, but it appears there was some sort of fallout with team management, and Moreno, a winner of such races as Flèche Wallonne and stages at the Vuelta a España, was not re-upped. Katusha add such riders as Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lott-Soudal) and Rein Taaramäe (Astana) to add some heft in the mountains, but neither have shown Moreno’s level of consistency.

Oliveira, 26, won a stage at the 2015 Vuelta, and, as a solid time trialist, will bolster the Movistar in team time trials as well as in the intermediate mountains.

Betancur, meanwhile, will have one last chance to redeem himself at the elite level. The sometimes-brilliant Colombian has been wildly inconsistent, and has struggled with health and weight issues over the past few years before finally breaking with Ag2r-La Mondiale midway through last season. Betancur, 26, will help Valverde in the Ardennes and will see if he can regain the form that saw him win such races as Paris-Nice in 2014 and finish fifth at the 2013 Giro.

Exiting riders include Pablo Lastras, who retires following injuries in a crash last season. Eros Capecchi joins Astana, and Team Sky, which believes he can come handy in the mountains as well as the one-week stage races, picked up Beñat Inxausti. The future remains uncertain for veteran climbers John Gadret and Igor Antón.

Unzué keeps his proven base intact, and will count on such riders as Andre Amador, the Izagirre brothers, Juanjo Lobato, and Winner Anacona to continue to step up in the one-week races, the Giro and other races where the confirmed leaders Valverde and Quintana are not racing.

Movistar for 2016

Current riders who stay: Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, José and Jesús Herrada, Alex Dowsett, Winner Anacona, Ion and Gorka Izagirre, Adriano Malori, Jonathan Castroviejo, Rubén Fernández, Juanjo Lobato, Rory Sutherland, Javi Moreno, Dayer Quintana, Andrey Amador, Imanol Erviti, José Joaquín Rojas, Fran Ventoso, Jasha Sütterlin, Giovanni Visconti, and Marc Soler

New riders: Dani Moreno (Katusha), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jorge Arcas (Lizarte), Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), and Antonio Pedrero (Inteja-MMR)

Riders leaving: Eros Capecchi (Astana), Beñat Intxausti (Sky), Pablo Lastras (retires), John Gadret (linked to Portuguese teams), Igor Antón (not confirmed)