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CHOLET, France (AP) — Movistar is launching a three-man attack to foil Chris Froome's quest to win a fifth Tour de France.
While most teams appoint one leader to fight for the title, Movistar says Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, and Mikel Landa all start the race on Saturday with equal options to become their No. 1 rider.
"We always come here with high hopes, but this year it definitely looks like it is our turn more than ever to aspire for victory with these three leaders," Movistar general director Eusebio Unzue said on Friday in western France.
"It's undeniable that this team has gotten better and that we are coming here in perfect position to achieve the goal of arriving to Paris in the yellow jersey."
However, some rivals question whether not having a defined leader and seven more riders tasked to help him through the grueling 21-stage race will only create confusion and in-house competition for Movistar.
Richie Porte, who helped Froome win two Tour titles then left Sky to have his shot at being a top rider on BMC, said finding a balance with three riders who are fighting for the overall classification would be difficult.
"It is a tricky one, having a three-prong attack," Porte said. "It is great to have those options, but you have to use them wisely. Who knows how harmonious it is on that team? It is hard enough with two leaders, let alone three."
Porte won last month's Tour de Suisse after Movistar fell short with Quintana finishing third and Landa 16th.
Porte said he was aided in Switzerland by what he called Movistar's poor race tactics. He gave an example of the team ordering Landa to attack into what Porte described as a headwind.
"Hopefully for Landa they are going to use (their riders) more smartly" in France, Porte said.
Quintana, a winner of the Giro d'Italia and the Spanish Vuelta who has twice finished runner-up to Froome at the Tour, said Movistar was accustomed to competing without a clear hierarchy. The Colombian climber has shared the top spot on the team for years with Valverde.
"On other occasions we have been in this situation of having more than one leader and we have known how to handle it," Quintana said. "It's not a problem. Day by day the race will decide for us."
Valverde, at 38 years old, said he was most likely third in the pecking order behind Quintana and newcomer Landa.
"I have come here several times as the leader and my opportunity (to win) has probably passed," Valverde said. "Our idea is to win the Tour for Movistar, but they have better chances than I do."
Landa is trying to follow a similar path to Porte. The Spaniard excelled as a strong support rider for Froome and former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali before he signed to Movistar this season.
"The difference between previous seasons and this one is that now I can run my own race," Landa said. "It's great to share a leading role with Alejandro and Nairo. I'll fight to be up there with them, learning as much as I can from them, and taking advantage of my chances during the race."
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