Nairo Quintana to lead Blues for the first time in a Grand Tour during the 97th edition of the 'Corsa Rosa', starting on Friday.

Nairo Quintana, Jonathan Castroviejo, Andrey Amador, José Herrada, Adriano Malori, Eros Capecchi, Gorka Izagirre, Igor Antón and Fran Ventoso are the nine riders the Movistar Team will take to the 97th edition of the Giro d'Italia (Friday 9 - Sunday, June 1). The first Grand Tour of the year, which will start in Belfast and spend three days of racing in the island of Ireland, will be the first time Nairo Quintana starts a three-week stagerace as designated leader of the telephone squad.

Polish Sylwester Szmyd and Pablo Lastras have been the riders left out from the initial, eleven-man shortlist proposed by general manager Eusebio Unzué. In Lastras's case, it was the Spanish rider himself who ruled out taking part in the event following several weeks of altitude training in Navacerrada: "Eusebio wanted me to be there, but I'm physically wasted. It's being one of the hardest moments in my racing career. I'll miss my team-mates a lot." With the eight riders to support Quintana on his chase for glory in the Giro confirmed, Unzué reflects on their chances, the keys of this year's route and the main favourites for the overall victory:

"This year we're bringing a strong leader in Nairo, and the whole team has been selected to support him. He has got to know the Vuelta, in 2012; the Tour, in 2013; and we wanted him this year to take another step forward, to debut in the other Grand Tour left and, above all, making it as the only designated leader, from the very start. Coming into the race, the goal is fighting for a place in the overall podium. Winning? After his 2nd place in last year's Tour, I think he's ready for that, but we can't forget it is the first team he will take on such responsibilities from the start - plus, he hasn't got any experience in the Giro, a race whose peculiarities are important to know.

"There might be some other contenders who are less strong, yet have lots more experience than Nairo. It might be possible, yes, but it's going to be really hard; that why I saw that, in principle, we have to aim for the podium. Building on such a goal, seeing him continue to grow and getting used to lead a team from the start, to keep his mind cold in different situations... these are things only experience can provide you with, and which Nairo, young and inexperienced in the race, will face for the first time.

"He will be surrounded by a group full of experienced team-mates, in good form, committed and convinced about the goal we're setting on ourselves for this race. All of them, except for Castroviejo and Gorka, already know the Giro, and that's crucial. As in any Grand Tour, and even more in Italy, whose orography makes every stage unpredictable, you can win or lost the race anywhere, but the overall result has to be decided into the final week, which is brutal. It will try the resistance and freshness every leader keeps until that point, because those final days are super demanding. Favourites? I think there might be sort of a clash of generation that might become interesting for the race itself. Veterans, including Purito, Evans and Scarponi; riders who are still young but have experience, such as Urán, Pozzovivo or Daniel Martin; and the up-and-coming stars, like Majka or Nairo."

Article taken from Movistar Team News blog