Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana to lead telephone squad again in Spanish GT's 70th edition, looking to crown an already magnificent 2015 season
Eusebio Unzué has confirmed the nine-man squad that the Movistar Team will bring to the start of the 70th Vuelta a España in Puerto Banús on Saturday. Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde will be the leaders of a roster completed by Andrey Amador, Rory Sutherland, Javi Moreno, Imanol Erviti, Fran Ventoso, José Joaquín Rojas and Giovanni Visconti. José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta are the two directeur sportifs for the final Grand Tour of the season.
"We didn't have to leave riders who were ready for the Vuelta out of our roster," underlined Unzué. "We asked José Herrada and Beñat Intxausti, who had already ridden another Grand Tour, to remain in decent form should any misfortune happen, but luckily, the nine riders we kept in mind are perfectly fit to ride and are the most appropriate ones. It might well be the most polyvalent group out of the three Grand Tour squads we lined up this season. Even though some of them might not be able to stick to the front into long climbs hit at a hard pace, all of them can get well through almost any mountain stage in this Vuelta. Most of the lads are fresh -Sutherland, Moreno, Rojas, Ventoso-, with no GTs on their race programme so far, and the whole block is raring to go, which gives us a great guarantee of success."
Despite Quintana and Valverde coming into this race after "successful seasons, having fulfilled their respective programmes with no setbacks," Unzué concedes that "there's always a sense of pressure on us, in every race – responsibility of doing well wherever we go. We always try to get to every key race in good condition, and both of them are excited about this Vuelta and had it on their calendars for many months." Unzué doesn't think that their intense efforts during the Tour might play a huge impact: "All contenders will get to this race in similar condition. Obviously, it's harder for those present at the Tour to reach top condition again with short recovery times, but the rest also rode the Giro and, in general, pretty much everyone, except for the 'galactic' 1989-90 generation -Landa, Aru, Nairo-, is mature enough to cope with a second GT so close to the first one. Again, the biggest difficulty remains staying motivated for such a challenge."
Regarding the race favourites, Unzué spoke about "the consistency by Froome, who did start showing the best of his game with a second place overall here in 2011, later becoming the biggest reference on GTs; the regularity by Nibali -who already knows how to win this race-, strong for all TT, mountains and rolling terrain and able to improvise tactics which add value to his sporting quality; also Purito, who always shines at his best in this race; and, of course, the solidness by Aru and Nairo, already proven at this race. And Alejandro – what can we say: after such a brilliant season, any extra from him will be more than welcome. With Landa in as well as any surprises, which always happen in the Vuelta, the contenders' field looks magnificent."
Lastly, the route: "It's an exaggeratedly 'new' Vuelta, with all mountain-top finishes not included in any edition before. Most of the race's main difficulties will be at the north of Spain and Andorra, while a different kind of hardness will be found in Andalusia. Everyone could feel the high temperatures we suffered for a whole week last year, and that will surely add some wear and tear when the riders hit Murcia and Valencia before the first rest day, from which the race will start to get decided."