Valverde to debut in Tour of Flanders and Giro d’Italia, Quintana sets full focus on Tour de France

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Third in this year’s Tour de France and thus achieving a big career goal of finishing on the podium in that event, Alejandro Valverde and his Movistar team have decided against the Spaniard focussing everything on a repeat of that in 2016.

The team gave the Spaniard the chance to achieve that goal and now, with the team’s full effort due to be behind Nairo Quintana in the Tour, Valverde will be chasing a range of goals before riding that race in support.

His season programme was confirmed by the team on Friday, following five days of meetings and events at the Castillo de Gorráiz hotel near Pamplona.

According to the team, he will ride several Classics in the spring in order to be in the best possible shape for a major goal later in the season. Those Classics will include his first-ever participation in the Tour of Flanders, and then a debut in the Giro d’Italia.

“The idea is focusing on those one-day Classics to reach the Rio Olympics in fresher condition,” he said. “That will be another of my biggest goals.

“This year will be a good occasion to try the Giro, which was a wish of mine for many years. I also liked the idea of riding some cobbled races like De Ronde.”

As a result of that programme he will do only one stage race in the spring. “Tirreno-Adriatico looks like the most feasible, as it’s located between Strade Bianche and Sanremo, which are both on my calendar.”

Quintana will take a different approach. Second in the 2013 Tour de France, winner of the 2014 Giro d’Italia and then second again in this year’s Tour, he and the team are convinced that he can win the biggest race in cycling.

As a result he’ll focus everything on being at his best in that event.

“My main personal goal will be again the Grande Boucle,” he said, talking about the Tour. “I’ve got more responsibility on my shoulders this year while I’m more experienced to face that challenge.”

Because of that, he will be doing the sort of multi-day events that Valverde will be avoiding.

“We’ll seek some early form in San Luis before riding some other stage races like the Volta a Catalunya or the Vuelta al País Vasco,” he said. “These are important both for the team and for myself.

“Alejandro will be a huge support for us all in the Tour, after completing quite an interesting calendar.”

Team manager Eusebio Unzue said that he received a green light from team sponsor Telefonica to allow Valverde to focus on the Giro.

“We’ve been suggested many times to try and ride more and more Classics with Valverde, and even though he does many every season, the first part of his schedule will be based all around them.

“We think that, with help from his team-mates, he’ll be able to do very well in the pavé, possibly the thing standing out [missing] the most in his calendar.

“Regarding Nairo, after what he did in 2015, the idea is keeping the Tour as his main, primary goal – he’s already shown he’s more than capable fighting for overall success.”

Valverde has long been regarded as one of the most versatile riders in the peloton and he underlined that again in 2015 when he won the UCI WorldTour. It was his second successive victory in that contest.

His squad also took the WorldTour team award, successfully defending the titles it scooped in 2013 and again last year.

It will aim once again for that kind of success in 2016. If Valverde and Quintana ride to plan, their dual assault on the calendar will put the squad in a commanding position and, potentially, put the Colombian in yellow on the Champs Elysees.

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