He won the race two years ago but this time around, the Movistar team is determined not to put pressure on Nairo Quintana to deliver in the Tour de San Luis.
The Colombian rider will be part of the squad competing in the early season event, which will be held in Argentina from January 18 to 24. He will be joined by 2013 Fléche Wallonne champion Dani Moreno and 2015 Tour de l’Avenir victor Marc Soler, who could prove to be the strongest riders on the Movistar squad.
“We want him to start the season calmly, without intensity work in the early season,” states the team’s general manager Eusebio Unzue. That said, he won’t put pressure on him to hold back, allowing him to race if he feels like it. “However, year after year is more difficult to win, not only because of the number of rivals, but also because of their good training,” he added.
In 2014 Quintana won the fourth stage to the Alto del Amago and then took over the race lead the following day in the 19.2 kilometre San Luis time trial. He won the overall classification by 43 seconds from Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp).
He went on to win that year’s Giro d’Italia and then, this season, took the second Tour de France runner-up slot of his career.
He is regarded as one of the top favourites for next year’s Tour and even if he holds off on intensity work before the Tour de San Luis, has the talent to show himself well during the race.
Unzué said that the event is one that grabs the attention of Quintana and others. “I do not why, but all the riders want to take part in the Tour de San Luis,” he stated.
New signing Carlos Betancur could also be a major factor, although much will depend on how well he trains during the off-season. He had flashes of brilliance while with the Ag2r La Mondiale team, but also periods of time when he was very out of condition. He has pledged to have a much stronger showing with Movistar, and has a chance to prove that early one.
The squad’s line-up will be completed by Dayer Quintana, Nairo’s brother and Fran Ventoso.
One of the key stages will be the team time trial in the event. Movistar took an unexpected bronze medal in the recent world championships and will use that motivation boost when it lines out against the clock in Argentina. However Unzué also wants to keep expectations down.
“Some time ago it was like a dream,” he said, referring to the worlds performance, “but we are getting closer step by step.”
“But nobody should expect our victory in the team time trial in San Luis. We are going to do our best, but it will be really difficult since it is the first day of competition of the season.
“The legs of some of the riders are going to hurt.”
The race is ranked as a 2.1 event on the UCI calendar. Other WorldTour squads due to take part will be Tinkoff-Saxo, Astana, Etixx – Quick-Step, Lampre, Ag2r La Mondiale and Garmin-Cannondale.