Second and third overall this season, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde have both said that the newly unveiled course of the 2016 Tour de France appeals to them and should suit their characteristics. The duo will both represent the Movistar team in the race and believe that they can challenge for yellow next July.
Quintana was, unsurprisingly, in favour of a route that offers much for climbers.
“It’s a good parcours for us,” he said on Tuesday, giving his initial impressions. “I think the mountains really suit us, plenty on them on the course with some finishes I know and shone in in the past, like Mont Ventoux or Morzine. Also, from what I could see, the long ITT isn’t completely flat, so it shouldn’t be bad for us.”
He said that the absence of the cobblestone sectors seen in 2014 and 2015 plus a first week he regards as easier than in those Tours means that they will have more confidence in the opening stages. However he regrets another change.
“What I really miss on this year’s route is the TTT,” he said, referring to the team time trial which has helped in the past.
“It really favoured us on previous editions, as we could fight for the stage win and take a bit of a gap over our rivals. It’s a shame we won’t ride it this time.”
Quintana was runner-up in both 2015 and also in 2013. He won last year’s Giro d’Italia and said that the unveiled parcours was reminiscent of that event.
“More than the Tour, this route reminds me of the Vuelta a España or even the Giro, with hard stages all over the three weeks of racing,” he said. “But our form approach must remain the same: starting off in good condition and keeping or improving it over the course of the race. We have to take care about ourselves the best we can – overtraining and losing that bit of fitness at the end of the race would be a big mistake.”
Indeed Quintana showed improvement in the third week in 2013 and again this year, while Chris Froome – who won on both occasions – started to lose momentum. Indeed many believe that if the race was one day longer Quintana may have wrested the yellow jersey off the shoulders of the Briton, such was the difference between the two towards the end of this year’s Tour.
Valverde had his best ever showing in the race this July, and said at the time that he took huge satisfaction out of taking third overall.
Like Quintana, he was also excited about the unveiled course.
“I think it’s a more open route than last year’s, and undoubtedly beautiful and interesting,” he stated.
“Stages seem to be longer – seven or eight of them are above 200 kilometres, which should make efforts harder at the end of the race. The mountains are distributed differently.”
Like Quintana, he believes that the opening race won’t be as testing as in recent years, although he said that it will still be nervous. After that he will have a chance to fight for time.
“The Pyrenees and Andorra climbs will bring some suffering before the first rest day and, together with the Mont Ventoux, I think they might set things really straight early into the race.
“However, with those two demanding TTs and the restless final week, it can really suit us the whole team and Nairo well.”
Interestingly, both he and Quintana suggested the Colombian may have sole leadership.
Asked about pressure, Quintana said that he was ready for it. “It won’t be different to previous occasions: I always took on leading duties well during this years, in the 2014 Giro, the 2015 Tour… it won’t be a problem.
“Fortunately, Alejandro got the Tour podium he really fought for, and having him out of that same pressure will be a boost for me and the whole team.”
Valverde said that he would possibly be less focussed on the Tour than in previous seasons. “Although I haven’t yet spoken thoroughly about it with either Eusebio nor Nairo, the plan is having him taking over the team leadership.”
As for team manager Eusebio Unzue, he said that Quintana should be supported by the team’s best riders. He added that Valverde should, by logic, also be protected in some way.