|After its victorious European debut with Alejandro Valverde’s win at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana in the Majorca Challenge, Movistar Team kicks off on Thursday with seven hectic days on competition that will lead the telephone squad into ten racing days and three different countries. Portugal (Volta ao Algarve), France (Tour du Haut Var) and Spain (Andalucía) will be the hunting reserves for the Blues in search for a second victory to their season tally.
Algarve will be the first chance to add it as local hero Rui Costa -4th overall last year- leads a group also made by Jonathan Castroviejo, brothers José and Jesús Herrada, Vladimir Karpets, Enrique Sanz and Briton Alex Dowsett, under the sports direction from José Luis Jaimerena. The Portuguese event has been reduced to a 4-day competition in 2013: the last two stages should be decisive, with the mountain-top finish in Malhao (Saturday) and the final, 35-km ITT in Tavira on Sunday.
The showdown in Portugal will coincide in time with the Tour du Haut Var on French soil, where Chente García Acosta will direct a 6-man group composed by Fran Ventoso, Juanjo Cobo, Pablo Lastras, Ángel Madrazo, Sylwester Szmyd and Giovanni Visconti. The two-day race in the Provence features a short stage with no major mountain difficulties on Saturday and a hard mountain stage of more than 200k on Sunday.
That day will also mark the start of the 59th Vuelta a Andalucía, where Alejandro Valverde will defend his 2012 title into a strong roster also featuring local Javi Moreno -2nd in the World Tour ranking-. Joining the pair will be Nairo Quintana, José Joaquín Rojas, Rubén Plaza, Imanol Erviti and Iván Gutiérrez, with José Luis Arrieta as DS. A 6km prologue in San Fernando, two uphill finishes in Ubrique and Montilla and the queen stage in Rincón de la Victoria, with no less than six mountain climbs, will make this year’s Ruta del Sol parcours.