Movistar trio Quintana, Landa, Valverde in tilt for Tour de France


Madrid (AFP)

Movistar announced on Thursday that all three of Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and the newly recruited Mikel Landa will team up to ride the 2018 Tour de France.

The team are considered as British team Sky's closest rival ands the line up represents their strongest assault on the yellow jersey yet.

The Spanish outfit snapped up climb specialist Landa from Team Sky in August with the objective of ending Sky and Chris Froome's grip on the Tour.

However, Movistar's task could be made much easier if Froome is sanctioned for an adverse drugs test result as he won the Vuelta a Espana in September.

Froome had twice the permissible amount of asthma medication Salbutamol in his system during the Vuelta, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Cycling's governing body UCI has asked the British rider to provide more information but in line with World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines has not suspended him.

If Froome fails to provide a satisfactory answer the UCI could proceed with an anti-doping rule violation case, which could strip him of his Vuelta victory and result in him missing a large chunk of next season.

"We have the riders with the ideal profile to believe in winning the Tour, which is one of the few races we have still to win," said Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzue.

Quintana has won both the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta and has twice finished runner-up to Froome at the Tour in 2013 and 2015.

However, the Colombian finished a disappointing 12th this year after loading his schedule with the Giro d'Italia in May where he finished second to Tom Dumoulin.

Quintana will start his season on home soil at the Colombia Oro y Paz race between February 6 and 11.

Valverde will make his return from a broken knee cap that ended his 2017 season early at the Mallorca Challenge at the end of January, whilst Landa will wait until the Tour of Andalusia from February 14-18 to make his Movistar debut.