Movistar is ending its “all-in” tactic for the Tour de France, at least this year.
Unlike 2018 and 2019, when the team brought GC stars Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde to the Tour, team boss Eusebio Unzué will be spreading the wealth in the WorldTour’s new-look calendar.
Spain’s Marc Soler will get his shot to lead at a grand tour as Movistar leaves behind its sometimes controversial tactic of bringing all of its firepower to the Tour. Soler, the emerging GC star who won the 2018 Paris-Nice, will lead Movistar at the Giro d’Italia as the team returns to the Italian grand tour without defending champion Richard Carapaz, who will defend the pink jersey for Team Ineos.
Movistar also confirmed that Valverde and Enric Mas, another one of Spain’s promising captains, will both race the Tour and Vuelta a España.
“Instead of bringing all three, Enric will go hand-in-hand with Alejandro who can lead the way,” Unzué said. “Valverde and Enric will lead [at Tour and Vuelta]. We’ll go [to] the Giro and the classics with Marc.”
Unzué said one reason he’s breaking up his “Three Muskateer” strategy is to assure that race organizers, also feeling the pinch during the coronavirus lockdown, will also see top names across all the major rescheduled dates. In 2019, Unzué’s tactic paid off at the Giro, where Carapaz won the overall title, but derailed during the Tour, with inside-the-bus drama being highlighted in the Netflix documentary, “On the Least Expected Day.”
“The original idea was to bring all three to the Tour,” Unzué said in a conference call Wednesday. “Enric wasn’t so happy about the order, but Marc understood it was a good opportunity, and he likes it.”
Unzué said the team will be split into three working groups, including one group of 12 riders who will target the Tour and Vuelta, of which eight will get the nod to race. Another group will target the Giro, and a third with a mix of younger riders.
“We went through some hard moments, but now we can see the light,” Unzué said of the long, COVID-19 shutdown. “We’ll have 120 days of racing that we can share among the team so that everyone has at least a minimum of racing and we can save the season pretty well.”
All three will headline at the Vuelta a Burgos, which will kick-start the European racing calendar in northern Spain at the end of July. Valverde, who has already said he will race into 2021 in order to have a shot at the rescheduled Tokyo Games, said he’s keen to race.
“I like the calendar,” Valverde said. “It’s going to be a special season even if everything is going to be packed in. I am very motivated, as if I was 30 years old again. It’s going to be a very different Tour in every way, so let’s see if the wild waters of the river will favor the fisherman.”
With the exit of Landa, Quintana, and Carapaz over the winter, Movistar is leaning on Mas and Soler to help fill the void. Mas, who finished second in the 2018 Vuelta, said he is “extra motivated” to race with Valverde.
“The ‘murciano’ never lets you down,” Mas said of Valverde, who hails from Spain’s Murcia region. “The first day back on the bike after lockdown I felt like a kid playing with a new toy. I’ll race the Tour and Vuelta with Valverde, and I am very motivated to be at his side. He is always there, and I am sure I will learn a lot. Hopefully, we’ll make a good duo.”
Soler will try to fill the shoes of Carapaz, who rode a tactically brilliant Giro in 2019 to become the first Ecuadorian to win a grand tour.
“I’m excited to be the leader at the Giro,” Soler said. “Eusebio proposed the idea, and I liked it and I really embraced. He told me about it in the morning, I looked at the calendar, and it seemed like a good idea. In the end, I told him let’s do it. I am looking forward to the challenge of having the team around me. I am really looking forward to it.”