• (L-R) Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Marc Soler will be at the Tour de France. (Getty)Source: Getty
Movistar has confirmed they will carry a trio of protected riders to the 2018 Tour de France, a move which may turn out to be either a spectacular disaster or incredible stroke of genius.
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Cycling Central
26 Jun 2018 - 9:48 AM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2018 - 1:15 PM

Historically, teams have hedged their bets with a rider for the general classification and one for the sprints with support balanced between the two or tilted slightly toward their best chance.

Australian WorldTour team Mitchelton-Scott, for example, controversially dropped sprinter Caleb Ewan from its selection to throw all its weight behind Adam Yates. For them, it's a high overall placing or bust. It's the same for defending champions Team Sky with Chris Froome.

Lotto Soudal will rely on Andre Greipel for the sprints and breakaways with a rider like Thomas de Gendt. Their focus is individual stage wins and they have a big strong mixed team of classics and roleur types purpose built for that task.

We can now add Movistar's crazy-brave tactical thinking to the Tour mix with Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde set to spearhead an attempt to loosen Sky's headlock on the race.

History suggests carrying two team leaders to the Tour can be less than a masterstroke and a move which usually results in lots of creative tension. What will happen when you have three?

Movistar's best option lies with Colombian Quintana, who was second in 2013 and 2015 and third in 2016. He has also won the Giro and Vuelta a España.

At 28, he is right in the hitting zone for a Tour win and has earned the right to lead a team devoted to his talents, which makes Movistar's decision deeply weird. It's a move which follows up on last years nutty attempt to do the Giro-Tour double with Quintana. One which burned out the Colombian before the race even started.

Landa, on the other hand, appears a bit of a loose and unpredictable unit and is often a rider punching more tickets on himself than his career palmares suggests he should. His presence could have consequences for Quintana if he is in dire need of support.

The ageless and wily Valverde will likely sit back, follow wheels and take the fewest turns necessary as he watches the two youngsters throw blows at one another while hoping to slip through the middle for a podium place or another career-defining stage win.

But it doesn't stop there, also on the Movistar roster is the Paris-Nice champion, Marc Soler. He's young, but no younger than Quintana when he first made his mark. The 24-year-old is a beautifully balanced rider who can both time-trial and climb. A leader in waiting? What if...? Nah.

Along with Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti, Soler's position is a difficult one, having to support not just one but three leaders in the mountains. This trio will no doubt fully earn their wages at this Tour and they will desperately hope one rider emerges quickly as the sole team leader if only to preserve their sanity.

Still, Movistar has contrasted itself with their rivals and thrown something interesting into the mix which makes this Tour even more unpredictable. Perhaps this is exactly the approach necessary to overthrow the Sky hegemony - storm the gates with your best in one crazy-brave attempt to take the castle - though history suggests otherwise.

Movistar for the 2018 Tour de France
Nairo Quintana (COL), Mikel Landa (ESP), Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Andrey Amador (CRC), Daniele Bennati (ITA), Imanol Erviti (ESP), Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP), Marc Soler (ESP).