Spaniard seeks for victory in Strade Bianche after two third-place finishes; Ion Izagirre, Juanjo Lobato hope to continue their streak of good results in Paris-Nice
Three competitions will open the month of March for the Movistar Team, to be joined from Wednesday by Tirreno-Adriatico. In Italy, Alejandro Valverde will lead an eight-man group conducted by José Luis Jaimerena at Strade Bianche (Saturday 5), followed by the GP Industria e Artigianato di Larciano (Sunday 6) a day later.
The nine 'sterrato' portions (52.8km) en route to Siena's Piazza del Campo, followed by the four San Baronto climnbs a day later, will be the main difficulties for the UCI's World No. 1 from 2015, joined by Giovanni Visconti -who will act as local on Sunday- and Andrey Amador. The roster is completed by Jorge Arcas, Fran Ventoso, Jasha Sütterlin, Dayer Quintana and Marc Soler. At Larciano, Valverde and Amador will be replaced by Antonio Pedrero and Rory Sutherland.
Also on Sunday, the Movistar Team will take the start in the 74th edition of Paris-Nice, over eight stages until March 13. A prologue ITT in Conflans, four dirt sections towards Vendôme on Monday and a difficult hilltop finish at Mont Brouilly on Wednesday will lead the peloton into a demanding last weekend. The Mont Ventoux / Chalet Reynard, on Friday, will precede the seven-climb, mountain stage six to the Madone d'Utelle, on Saturday, one day before the classic loop around Nice wraps things up.
José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía will command a lineup including Juanjo Lobato -with several sprinting chances throughout the week- and second-placed finishers in both the Volta ao Algarve (Ion Izagirre) and the Tour du Haut Var (Jesús Herrada). Also in this race will be Rubén Fernández, Imanol Erviti, José Herrada, Gorka Izagirre and José Joaquín Rojas.