Movistar bat away transfer rumors as team zeroes in on Giro

Landa, Carapaz and Quintana have all been linked with moves to rival teams

Photo: Getty Images

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COMMEZZADURA, Italy (VN) — Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué danced around rumors that his fleet of star riders are stampeding for the exit door in 2020.

Among the transfer gossip making the rounds, Mikel Landa is said to be heading to Bahrain-Merida, Nairo Quintana to UAE-Emirates or Arkea-Samsic, and current Giro d’Italia pink jersey Richard Carapaz to Ineos.

It’s still early in the silly season, but sources confirm most of Movistar’s headliners could be making a switch. Unzué wouldn’t give much away when asked about it ahead of Wednesday’s start.

“Right now I cannot comment on this due to the interests of everyone involved,” Unzué said. “I cannot say anything.”

Movistar is in a unique situation that it suddenly finds itself with a wealth of talent on its hands. Yet with contracts up for Quintana, Landa and Carapaz at the end of this season, all three could be heading to new teams.

Franchise rider Quintana, whose been with Movistar since 2012, has been hinting at his desire to change going back as early as the 2017 Tour de France. Looking for more opportunities to be leaders, Landa and Carapaz are both also said to be looking for a new jersey.

Of course, there are rumors of riders heading to Movistar, including budding Spanish GC talent Enric Más (Deceunick-Quick-Step) or former Strade Bianche winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal).

In what’s good news for Unzué, one of the survivors in the peloton dating back to running teams since the 1980s, is that Movistar — the Spanish telecommunications giant — has extended its sponsor backing through 2021. The budget will reportedly remain the same, giving Unzué a checkbook to sign talent.

That guarantee gives Unzué the financial backing he needs to perhaps keep one of his stars, as well as find new riders to fill the void.

“I hope if one goes, another will come,” Unzué said with a smile. “Like every season, riders go, others arrive. This is cycling.”

Despite the rumors, Unzué is fully committed to winning the 2019 Giro with Carapaz.

If Movistar can pull off the win, it would be the team’s first grand tour since Quintana won the 2016 Vuelta a España.

The Ecuadorian is in a solid position going into the final four days of racing. Another medium mountain stage and a sprinter’s stage remain before Saturday’s final hard climbing stage and Sunday’s TT.

Unzué believes that the gains Movistar made over the Mortirolo on Tuesday and the extra twist they added on Wednesday could be enough to win the Giro.

“Nibali is the most unpredictable rider in the peloton,” Unzué said. “Yesterday was an important day to consolidate pink as well as take some time on Roglic. Saturday is another hard stage, and with what lies ahead, it requires us to be very prudent.”

Carapaz squirted clear Wednesday behind a surge from Landa to widen his lead to Vincenzo Nibali to 1:54, and to Primoz Roglic to 2:16.

Movistar is emerging as the deepest team in the Giro, and now Landa is hovering in fourth just 47 seconds behind Roglic’s third-place podium spot.

Unzué said if the team can widen the gap, that’s even better. It’s lost grand tours to superior time trialists, most recently during the 2017 Giro against Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in a final-day time trial.

“I think the differences now to Nibali and Roglic could be enough,” he said. “We know that you have to finish off the race, but logic suggests that if things stay the way they are, we can be confident.”

One thing is sure, however, there could be a few more surprises in store during this Giro.

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