Nairo, Mikel or Alejandro? Place your bets now on who will turn out to be Movistar’s true leader in France. Euan gives them the once-over and asks: How the hell will Movistar’s love triangle work out at this year’s Tour de France?
The huge soap opera that is the Tour de France is nearly here, taking over your TiVO and your timelines. Like any good soap opera, it will have heroes, villains, plot twists and a young-ish man who regularly takes his top off for no good reason. [I’m assuming you’re talking about the guys by the roadside … Ed]
And where would a soap opera be without a love triangle? Three main characters, all friendly on the surface but with furtive scheming going on deeper down. Ultimately, at least one of them is going to end up being hurt.
Which brings us to Movistar’s role in the Tour.
The Spanish team arrives in France with three leading men. Speculation is rife about who will prevail. We’re speculating about whose ego will be most bruised and who is going to pick up the Emmy Award for the best-supporting-actor (daytime).
The contenders are:
Nairo Quintana – a demi-god in his Colombian homeland.
Mikel Landa – the dark and brooding Spaniard who’s made no secret of the prize he craves.
Alejandro Valverde – the charming older man with a dark past.
Of course, with three ‘leaders’, Movistar risk ending up with a big fat nothing. It may well all fall apart while these three squabble over leadership. While they only have eyes for each other then other teams will take advantage.
However, a look at each of these teammates suggests this one isn’t going to be as choppy as we hope.
The demi-godEmbed from Getty Images
The form rider of the three has to be Nairo Quintana. He’s won two Grand Tours and has been on the Tour de France podium three times. His recent showing at the Tour de Suisse suggests he’s fresh and fired up to stand on the top step in Paris.
That gives him the first advantage. If all goes to his plan, he won’t be causing any issues because the team will fall in line behind him. No way will they favour another rider when Quintana has any kind of edge over them.
And if it doesn’t go to plan? Well, Quintana isn’t known for chasing lost causes, in fact, at times he hasn’t been known for chasing anything. Earlier this year at the Tour of Catalunya he was happy to play rear gunner for Valverde, who was higher up the GC and in better form. I know there’s a world of difference between a stage race and the biggest race in the world but nothing in his past suggests the Colombian will be a troublesome presence if things don’t go his way.
The maverickEmbed from Getty Images
Mikel Landa has been the most outspoken of the three about wanting to win the Tour de France. The Spaniard has declared he doesn’t want to be a sacrificial support rider again, he wants to go and get the win for himself.
On the surface that’s fighting talk. He’s not going to push himself up a climb with Quintana on his wheel only to pull over and release his fresher teammate. But what Landa says and what Landa does can be two different things. He might not have liked towing Chris Froome around France last year but it was his job and he did it. Landa might be talking like he’s ready to be the swashbuckling freelancer but he knows who pays his wages.
The veteranEmbed from Getty Images
Finally, Alejandro Valverde. Of the three, he’s least likely to come out on top in pure sporting terms but season after season he just looks like he loves racing. On past form, he’ll be happy to be there and to sit and watch how the race develops. If that gives him opportunities he’ll take them, if not he’ll have lost no reputation or respect.Embed from Getty Images
We’d all love Movistar to deliver a dramatic fireworks show but the characters involved might turn it on its head – instead of internal fireworks, they might very well band together to set off some fireworks in the GC.
So how the hell will Movistar’s love triangle work out at the tour? I suspect things will be just fine.
Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/David Ramos