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"Our goal is to try and get Alejandro on the overall podium. It is his biggest ambition this year, and we have put all our efforts together this season to have him fit to contest it. The last tests during the Spanish road championships...

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ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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ANDREY AMADOR

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IMANOL ERVITI

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JONATHAN CASTROVIEJO

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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JOSÉ IVAN GUTIERREZ PALACIOS

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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RUBEN PLAZA MOLINA

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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24.06.2013 @ 13:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde will spearhead a formidable Movistar team at the Tour de France and will target his first ever podium result at the world's biggest race. The team also lines up young riders Nairo Quintana and Rui Costa at the event but are keen not to put their two youngsters under any unreasonable pressure.

 

As expected, the Movistar team will be all for Alejandro Valverde at this year's Tour de France, the Spaniard targeting the podium at the world's biggest race. His best finish so far was 6th in 2007 but this year everything is set for an improvement of that performance.

 

Valverde is a very versatile talent with the ability to win races all year long in a lot of different terrains. Hence, he has often had a very loaded race schedule, targeting the Pairs-Nice, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Ardennes Classics in the spring before going on contest the Tour.

 

This year his entire season has been built around his Tour campaign and so he has limited his racing drastically. Nonetheless, he has managed to win the one of the Mallorcan one-day races, the Vuelta a Andalucia, take top 10 results in all three Ardennes classics and finish in the top 10 at the Tour de Romandie in the first part of his season. He returned to competitive action where he made a very aggressive performance in the mountains before going on to finish 7th.

 

Having been proclaimed a potential Tour winner at his debut in 2005, he crashed out in 2006 before going on to finish in the top 10 in 2007 and 2008. He missed the 2009, 2010 and 2011 editions due to his involvement in the Operacion Puerto doping investigation but won the Vuelta a Espana in 2009 to prove his grand tour pedigree.

 

He returned from suspension last year and raced the Tour de France again last summer. An early crash put an end to his GC hopes but he bounced back to take a stage win in the final Pyrenean stage. He went on to finish second behind Alberto Contador in the Vuelta and would have very close to the win, had he not been involved in a crash in the crosswinds in stage 4.

 

This year he aims to finally step onto the Tour de France podium.

 

"Our goal is to try and get Alejandro on the overall podium," general manager Eusebio Unzue said. "It is his biggest ambition this year, and we have put all our efforts together this season to have him fit to contest it. The last tests during the Spanish road championships show us we have achieved it - he's coming in perfect form. I think he hasn't been capable reaching further steps in the Tour more as a matter of bad luck than anything else. I'm convinced he has a Tour podium in his legs, and this must be his chance."

 

"It will be important to get over any troubles on the first week, because the stress you have to go under every year always leaves a GC favourite out of contention," he continued. "This time, the race depart in Corsica will be even harder due to the narrow roads."

 

Young Nairo Quintana will race his maiden Tour de France after his impressive showing earlier this season. He won a mountain stage in the Volta a Catalunya and went on to win the Vuelta al Pais Vasco ahead of riders like Richie Porte, Sergio Henao and Alberto Contador but has not raced since the Ardennes classics, instead training in his native Colombia.

 

He made his grand tour debut at last year's Vuelta where he bounced back from a slow start to offer formidable support for Valverde in the mountains. However, there will be no expectations on the talent at this year's Tour who is at the race mostly to learn for the future.

 

"We have to be cautious about Nairo," Unzue said." I think he created such big expectations due to his impressive results, but I don't think he's prepared for us to put on his shoulders such a massive responsibility of fighting for the Tour overall. This team's philosophy has always been letting young riders grow behind another leader, and we were lucky enough to be right. I won't be putting pressure on him - we can't risk putting him into risks and losing him. I want him to know the race, to learn. This will be a learning course for him alongside Alejandro."

 

The team's third potential GC weapon is recent Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa. After having won a stage in Massif Central in 2011, he went on to contest the GC last, finishing a modest 18th.

 

This year he has, however, made another leap forward, confirming his potential by taking a much more dominant win at the Tour de Suisse than he did last year. The team has a very open approach towards Costa's performance.

 

"We also have Rui Costa: we will see how he keeps progressing - he's still young but has much experience, and we can't rule him out," Unzue said. "I'm sure he will be doing a great Tour and, why not, taking a big leap forward."

 

Jose Ivan Gutierrez and Jonathan Castroviejo will add firepower to the team time trial while the same goes for Ruben Plaza and young Andrey Amador who should also provide support in the mountains. The team is completed by trusted domestique Imanol Erviti and sprinter Jose Joaquin Rojas who will try his hands in the sprint but has earlier ruled out an attempt to win the green jersey this year.

 

"Apart from those three, we have a strong, balanced, experienced group," Unzue said. "Grown men like Iván, Imanol, Plaza or Rojas, with many GT's in their careers, the guardian-angels for Alejandro. Plus, two men less experienced, but in great form and which I'm sure will do a great Tour, such as Amador and Castroviejo."

 

Unzue is optimistic due to a course featuring less time trialling and more climbing than last year's.

 

"Apart from the natural selection by misfortune in the first week, the Pyrenees and the Alps will be decisive," he said." The TT's seem a bit less prejudicial for the climbers and the TTT is a short one, so it won't be decisive either. The first Pyrenean mountain-top finish will be really important - it will be the first mountain stage, and the next one on Sunday 7, despite not finishing in a summit, will also be hard. But everything will be decided into the third week. It will be important to save energy for it, because it's really interesting - four mountain stages and a demanding time trial."

 

Unsurprisingly, Unzue names Chris Froome as the big favourite but sees the potential that a couple of Spanish riders could challenge the Briton.

 

If you look at this season's results, there's no doubt Froome is ahead of the rest for the overall", he explained." Due to their career performances and their build-up for the race, I think Purito, Alejandro and Contador will be the alternatives, as well as Evans - we'll see how he does after the Giro. Of course, riders like Van den Broeck will be on the fight and some others will be confirming themselves, such as Van Garderen or Pinot, that up-and-coming generation who will be hitting hard in the future."

 

The Tour de France starts on Saturday in Corsica.

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