Team Movistar says the “sky’s the limit” on the 2012 season with the arrival of proven winners Alejandro Valverde and Juanjo Cobo.
The two recent arrivals bolster a solid Spanish outfit now riding in its second season with the backing of Spanish telecommunications giant, Movistar.
Team manager Eusebio Unzué said the two captains will raise the level across the board for the Spanish outfit that gained 21 wins on the 2011 season.
“Last year was a success on the sporting side, because we were able to get 20 victories with no big stars,” Unzué said during the team presentation in Madrid. “We are keeping the same block and will have some riders to prop up our level, such as Valverde and Cobo, who are world references. We will not set specific marks, but it’s obvious that we have the potential to fight for victories in the most important races.”
Valverde returned to the team after serving a two-year ban for his role in Operación Puerto, something he still denies. He won a race in his first competition with a stage-win at Tour Down Under.
Valverde’s season goals include the Ardennes classics and a return to the Tour de France, where he believes he can be in with a shot of the top-5 despite his long break from racing.
“I know that the Tour podium is within my reach, so why not even more?” he told VeloNews.com last month. “I know there are a lot of time trial kilometers in this Tour, but I spent a lot of time during my ban working on my time trialing. I have improved my position and my strength.”
After the Tour, Valverde will try to earn a spot on the Spanish Olympic team for London and then decide if he’ll race the Vuelta and/or the world championships in Valkenburg.
Valverde’s biggest worry seems to be the question on whether he have the depth not to go the distance, but have the kick at the end of long, grueling races of 240km and 265km.
“That’s the biggest doubt for me right, is whether I will miss that extra kick at the end of a long race,” he said. “I know I am strong right now and I am not in 100 percent form, so I am hoping that I will get that resistance in the opening races of the season to be in top shape for the season’s main goals.”
Cobo, meanwhile, will have a lighter spring and start the Tour and then head to the Vuelta with the idea of defending his title.
“I believe I can do well in two grand tours,” Cobo told VeloNews.com during the Vuelta presentation last month. “The Vuelta route is ideal for me, so the idea of starting the season a little later is perfect to be able to arrive at the Vuelta in ideal conditions to try to win again.”
The team heads to Mallorca this week for its final training camp and several riders, including Valverde, will be racing in the four-day Mallorca Challenge.
2012 MOVISTAR TEAM ROSTER Andrey Amador (Costa Rica, 1986) David Arroyo (Toledo, 1980) Marzio Bruseghin (Italy, 1974) Jonathan Castroviejo (Vizcaya, 1987) Juanjo Cobo (Cantabria, 1981) Rui Costa (Portugal, 1986) Imanol Erviti (Pamplona, 1983) Iván Gutiérrez (Cantabria, 1978) Jesús Herrada (Cuenca, 1990) José Herrada (Cuenca, 1985) Beñat Intxausti (Vizcaya, 1986) Javier Iriarte (Navarra, 1986) Vladimir Karpets (Russia, 1980) Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus, 1981) Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania, 1985) Pablo Lastras (Madrid, 1976) David Lopez (Vizcaya, 1981) Ángel Madrazo (Cantabria, 1988) Javier Moreno (Jaén, 1984) Sergio Pardilla (Ciudad Real, 1984) Rubén Plaza (Alicante, 1980) Nairo Quintana (Colombia, 1990) José Joaquín Rojas (Murcia, 1985) Branislau Samoilau (Belarus, 1985) Enrique Sanz (Navarra, 1989) Alejandro Valverde (Murcia, 1980) Francisco José Ventoso (Cantabria, 1982) Giovanni Visconti (Italy, 1983)
STAFF General Manager: Eusebio Unzué. Sports Directors: José Luis Jaimerena, Alfonso Galilea, Yvon Ledanois, José Luis Arrieta. Mechanicians: Fernando Sánchez, Roberto San Emeterio, Fermín Gómez, Senen Pintado, Alexander Gubanov, Aritz Berruezo. Masseurs: José Ángel Arenas , Juan Carlos Escámez, Borja Jaimerena, Fernando