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Movistar riding through the Spanish countryside. (c) TDWsport.com

08/18/2017, Canyon VUELTA A ESPANA 2017

IN QUINTANA’S SHADOW

On Saturday, the third and final Grand Tour of the year, the Vuelta a Espana, gets underway. After a lacklustre Tour de France, Team Katusha-Alpecin comes to the Spanish tour with something to prove, while Movistar Team looks for someone to step into the shoes of the absent Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.

MOVISTAR TEAM

Last year, Nairo Quintana rode across the finish line in Madrid clad in red and riding a red Ultimate, having just won the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. This year, there will be a different winner. After finishing second in the Giro and 12th in the Tour de France, Quintana has decided to not contest the third and often most-difficult Grand Tour.

With Alejandro Valverde also absent due to injuries sustained during the Tour de France, it will be the first time in years that the spanish Movistar Team enters their home Grand Tour with no rider expected to contest the GC podium. They do however have a team full of young talent eager to prove themselves. Five of the nine riders are 26 or younger and four are making their Grand Tour debut. Anything can happen!

Youngest team in six years

This will be the youngest team Movistar has sent to the Vuelta since 2011. They are on average 27.2 years old, almost three years younger than 2016’s winning team with an average age of 30.7.

The team will give Carlos Betancur the chance to try his hand at the general classification. The 27-year-old showed during the Tour de France that he has Grand Tour pedigree by finishing 18th overall while helping Quintana. In his third go at the Vuelta, the young Colombian will focus on the blue King of the Mountains jersey.

Movistar Team:

Jorge Arcas (25), Grand Tour debut
Carlos Betancur (27), 8th Grand Tour
Richard Carapaz (24), Grand Tour debut
Rubén Fernández (26), 3rd Grand Tour
Dani Moreno (35), 18th Grand Tour
Nelson Oliveira (28), 8th Grand Tour
Antonio Pedrero (25), Grand Tour debut
José Joaquín Rojas (32), 13th Grand Tour
Marc Soler (23), Grand Tour debut

KATUSHA-ALPECIN

After a fifth place showing in the Giro and the decision to sit out the Tour de France, the team’s hopes will lie with Ilnur Zakarin. The Russian is an excellent climber and has a good chance at the podium.

Ilnur’s most important helpers in the mountains will be Rein Taaramäe and Alberto Losada, as well as fellow Russian Maxim Belkov. Together, they've contested a combined 32 grand tours, so lack of experience won’t be an issue.

With Alexander Kristoff sitting out, the door is open for the teams other sprinters to challenge on the flat stages. Marco Haller and Sven Erik Byström both have had success in the past and will be looking to step up and fill the hole left by the Norwegian.

Team Katusha-Alpecin:

Maxim Belkov (32), 7th Grand Tour
Sven Erik Byström (25), 2nd Grand Tour
José Goncalves (28), 4th Grand Tour
Marco Haller (26), 4th Grand Tour
Alberto Losada (35), 17th Grand Tour
Matvey Mamykin (22), 3rd Grand Tour
Michael Morkov (32), 7th Grand Tour
Rein Taaramäe (30), 11th Grand Tour
Ilnur Zakarin (27), 5th Grand Tour