2018 WT Ranking: 8th
2018 WT major wins: Abu Dhabi Tour, Volta a Catalunya, Stages 2 & 8 La Vuelta, Alejandro Valverde; Paris-Nice, Marc Soler; Stage 8 Il Giro, Richard Carapaz; Stage 17 TDF, Nairo Quintana
Riders to watch in 2019: Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler, Mikel Landa
Notable for: “The Trident”, Home of Nairo, Questionable race-strategy, a big “M”
MOVISTAR, EH? MOVISTAR.
What a team. What a history (at least if you take them as the successors of Banesto et al – and KONM does).
And yet, KONM has no real idea what to make of them these days.
There’s Nairo Quintana, Grand Master of the Microscopic Colombian Climbers and an infallible deity in the eyes of this particular blog. There’s Ale Valverde, the loveable World Champ with a questionable past – like nearly every pro of his generation. And there’s Marc Soler, a gangly climber who KONM reckons has a big career ahead of him.
So there’s a lot to like about Movistar, but last year they were just, well, weird.
Soler won Paris-Nice in pretty spectacular fashion and Valverde was Valverde throughout the year, yet it’s not outrageous to suggest 2018 was a pretty poor season for the Spanish team.
Nairo, in particular, was a disappointment. In both grand tours he rode, the Tour and the Vuelta, he seemed frail and timid, almost as if he was there for the sake of it, a spectator asked to ride with the big boys. This is not the Nairo KONM loves – but then again, it kind of is.
KONM adores a mercurial rider. One who can turn it on and off like a tap, with talent dripping from every pore but who, most of the time, just floats around looking amazing without really doing much else.* Clearly, temperamental riders are the best riders. On reflection, then, perhaps 2018 was exactly what we wanted from Nairo – so long as he follows it up with a 2019 in which he blitzes the competition in at least one major race – preferably the Tour.
*Monsieur Bardet, we’re looking at you.
If he doesn’t, you imagine it won’t be long before Movistar begin to look elsewhere for grand tour leadership. Part of the problem last year, of course, was that they couldn’t seem to decide who was the main man in that regard, with their “Trident” approach ending up as something of a laughing stock.
They surely won’t repeat that ludicrous strategy in 2019. Quintana openly spoke out about it in November, all of which just means there’s even more pressure on him to ride well. He’s changing trainers this year, and will get another shot at the protagonist gig at the Tour – he needs to justify it.
Waiting in the wings are Valverde, Mikel Landa, about whom, for some unknown reason, KONM just can’t get excited, and Soler, about whom KONM is very very excited.
He’s only just turned 25, so as futures go, his is pretty bright. That Paris-Nice victory was impressive, and really laid down a gauntlet to his more senior team-mates. Alright lads, how’s it going, just want to let you know I’m a fucking monster in the hills, but anyway here’s your bidon and energy bar, Mikel.
What awaits him in 2019 we’re not sure. Probably another year of pacing things out for the Trident. Fingers crossed he’ll bag a few wins though.
Featured photo: nuestrociclismo.com/Commons, edited by KONM