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Movistar has set the bar higher going into 2014, with the goal of winning a grand tour for the coming season.
After nipping at the edges of victory in 2013, with second in the Tour de France, third in the Vuelta a España, and eighth in the Giro d’Italia, the long-running Spanish team is betting everything on outright victory.
“After such great success, it’s obvious that our goal must be to try to win one of three grand tours,” said Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué at a team presentation Friday in Madrid. “Both Nairo [Quintana] and Alejandro [Valverde] are physically and mentally ready for the challenge, and they will have 100 percent confidence from a strong team.”
Movistar returns to 2014 with eight new riders, including Basque climber Igor Antón, French strongman John Gadret, and Dayer Quintana, the younger brother of Nairo.
The team lost world champion Rui Costa to Lampre-Merida, and did not re-up with Vladimir Karpets or 2011 Vuelta winner Juan José Cobo, but the core of the team that won the 2013 UCI WorldTour prize remains intact.
“The strength of our squad has always been our unity,” Unzué continued. “We have riders who can shine in all terrain, and our new signings will only make us stronger. I think it’s a very balanced block.”
Movistar, the Spanish telecommunications giant, stepped up in 2011 to save the team that dates back to the 1980s and the Banesto glory days of Miguel Indurain. The company recently extended its commitment through 2016, assuring Unzué a solid base as it pedals toward a grand tour victory.
Earlier this week, Movistar confirmed that Nairo Quintana will skip the Tour to focus on winning the Giro in May. The Colombian breakout star will likely later race the Vuelta and worlds in Spain.
Unzué said it was better for the 23-year-old Quintana to race the Giro to win rather than trying to live up to last year’s second place overall finish against a very strong Chris Froome (Sky) at the Tour de France.
Valverde will carry the team colors in the Tour, and will likely race the Vuelta as well ahead of the Spanish worlds.
Valverde told VeloNews last month he still believes he can reach the Tour podium.
“I’d like to get through a Tour without setbacks,” Valverde said. “I believe that I have the legs to do a good Tour. And for me, that’s the podium.”
Valverde is set to make his season debut at the Mallorca Challenge next month in Spain, while Quintana will remain in Colombia a few more weeks before returning to Europe.