Tour Guide Flashback – Movistar Pages (2011)

RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. As part of the team pages we are also offering ‘Flashbacks’ to the 2011 Guide to help provide a look at the progress/changes to the teams between the 98th and 99th Tours de France.

In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Movistar team from the 2011 Tour preview.

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Flashback: 2011 – Lotto Team Pages

Plenty of promise… now for a little bit of direction

The management of this team has patience. If he doesn’t have a true leader on the roster, Eusebio Unzue doesn’t panic. He bides his time, works with what he has, finds a good result here and there and eventually someone else steps forward to win races. This is the group that built its reputation during the long reign of Miguel Indurain. Once he retired there were a few lost years when Banesto (as it was known at the time) plodded along at the Tour, doing a bit more than just making up numbers but not exactly challenging for the yellow jersey.

In the meanwhile, along came Alejandro Valverde who had the potential to challenge for the overall victory, but he faltered in 2007 and 2008. He was sixth, then ninth… spent a few days in the yellow jersey, and was then suspended after a protracted legal battle that eventually linked him to Operación Puerto.

His return his is yet to come. But when he does it’s likely to be with the same group that he competed with when he won the Vuelta in 2009. Until then, Movistar – the new title of the team formerly known as Caisse d’Epargne – has several options to work with. Chief among them was the genial Xavier Tondo. At 32, he was just finding his place in the elite peloton.

Tondo had good results early in his first season with Unzue, placing sixth in Volta a Catalunya, fifth in Vuelta al País Vasco and winning the Vuelta Castilla y Léon. That was one of his final races before a shocking accident with a garage door. He died as a result of his injuries on the morning of 23 May, when he was preparing for a training ride with Benat Intxausti.

A tragedy like that affects everyone who hears the news. It reminds us to watch every step we take, and cherish each day.

What it will do for this team is uncertain. A huge hole has been left in the peloton – Tondo was a rider who was universally liked. Tributes flooded in from near and far: Alberto Contador dedicated his time trial win at the Giro to his compatriot and good friend. Other such gestures will continue for a long time yet to come. And we can only hope that a Movistar rider gets the chance to pay homage with a good ride at the Tour.

Going on last year’s efforts, we are sure to see more attacks by Vasil Kiryienka. The Belorussian never stopped trying. He came close to a stage win (the day Sergio Paulinho won by half a wheel in a tight sprint after a long escape) and never seemed perturbed. If he’s in the line-up, he’ll be aggressive.

This is a roster like Banesto’s of 2000, when José Vincente Garcia Acosta earned a consolation stage win for a team that had plenty of promise. But it tended to drift through July, being shoved around in the peloton like driftwood on the waves.

Unlike those lost years, however, Movistar has quality time trial riders (Konovalovas and Gutierrez), a few sprinters (Rojas and Ventoso), several opportunists (Lastras and Kiryienka) and some guys who can fight for a place in the top 10 on GC (Arroyo, Bruseghin or Plaza). Expect anything.

by Rob Arnold

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Author: design@ride

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