2018 world champion Alejandro Valverde had been looking forward to travelling to Australia for his final World Championships, but Movistar will not allow their talismanic points scorer to leave Europe while the team continues to fight against relegation.
“It’d be nice if Valverde could take part in the World Championships alongside young riders like [Juan] Ayuso and [Carlos] Rodríguez so they can learn from him,” Spanish national coach Pascual Momparler told AS. “He would love to come, he has said so, but he does not have permission. The team is immersed in the fight for points. It’s the same with Alex Aranburu.”
Spain’s team selection challenge is just the latest episode in the much derided relegation battle. With Movistar currently sitting in the danger zone at 18th in the UCI world ranking, and Lotto Soudal breathing down their necks, it’s all hands on deck for the Spanish outfit, which makes putting together a competitive lineup for the trip to Wollongong a thankless task for Momparler.
“They pay me to put together the best team, with the riders they deem appropriate, but this time it won’t be possible,” said Momparler. “We had a meeting on Friday to decide whether we would go to the World Championships or not and we finally decided that we will. Juan Ayuso and Marc Soler will be the leaders and we will try to form a team around them.”
It’s not just the Spanish national team that is struggling with selection, or even wondering whether to bother sending a squad altogether. While budget is an issue for many, Lotto Soudal, Israel-Premier Tech and Cofidis share the same concerns as Movistar with opportunities for results running dangerously thin this season. For them, the smaller but often more points-rich European races make much more sense than a Worlds trip which would rule out their best riders for several weeks.
“Many teams are refusing to release their riders and this could be a catastrophe for many teams. Including ours,” said Momparler. “The UCI has put everyone between a rock and a hard place. It’s going to be an unusual World Championships.”