Movistar Team riders profit from geographical proximity after the end of the Volta, do recon of Pyrenean stages of this year’s Grande Boucle
After a Volta a Catalunya full of contrast for Alejandro Valverde and Nairo -the Spaniard crashing out while wearing the leader’s jersey; the Colombian losing the overall podium after a brilliant stage victory-, the duo took advantage of the finish in Barcelona to take a short trip and recon the Pyrenean stages of the 100th Tour de France.
Accompanied by DS José Luis Arrieta, the two Movistar Team riders spent two days on French soil inspecting the routes of stages eight and nine -to be ridden on the weekend of July 6 and 7-, finishing at Ax 3 Domaines and Bagnères de Bigorre, respectively. Monday saw the Blue expedition covering the finale of Saturday’s trek, the first mountain-top finish of the race, with Ax 3 Domaines (8km / 8%) preceeded by the infamous, long (15-kilometer) ascent of Pailhères (2,000 meters above sea level), as well as the first three climbs of stage nine. In turn, Valverde and Quintana rode the rest of Sunday’s stage yesterday – the 165km between Saint Girons and Bagnères de Bigorre do not feature a hilltop end, but to include five major climbs across the route: Portet d’Aspet, Menté, Peyresourde, Val Louron-Azet and the Hourquette d’Ancizan, the latter one just 30k from the finish.
On their way back home in Pamplona, the telephone squad completed their busy schedule with the climb towards Formigal, where stage 16 of the Vuelta a España will finish. Both Quintana and Valverde will stay in Navarra for the team time trial training together with the rest of the Movistar Team at the Circuito de Navarra (Thursday and Friday) before getting back into racing: Valverde will return in the GP Miguel Indurain (Saturday), while Quintana is set to race the Vuelta a La Rioja (Sunday).
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a huge load of climbs and long trips into the team car these two days, but it really was worth the effort. Though we have raced in the Pyrenees many times, there were climbs like the two ones on the first day, Val Louron and the Hourquette, that I didn’t know, so it was good to know perfectly what we’re going to tackle this July. Even with the snow alongside the routes, we could climb all ascents, and that’s important. Any of those two stages might become decisive, because both are quite hard. Though everything will be left to the finale on stage eight, the road before Pailhères is also difficult and the group will be really stretched. The two climbs are difficult, but Pailhères seemed really difficult to me, to be honest. It will be the first mountain stage in this year’s Tour de France and that makes it even more dangerous. The second one is not so long, but there isn’t a single meter of rest. It’s gonna be a fast, nervous one, and if you have a bad day there… I’m fully recovered from Catalunya’s crash and I’m feeling well on the bike. Now I’ll be racing at Estella, Rioja and Amorebieta before the classics.“
Nairo Quintana: “It was important to recon these stages to get used to what we’ll find in July. I didn’t know the climbs and I quite liked them. All of them have steep slopes and some, like Pailhères, are rather long – that suits me. Weather was king with us and we could take on all climbs except the final part of the Pailhères and the last climb of stage nine. There’s still a very long way to go, many months, but doing this recon makes me even more excited towards my Tour debut. That’s the dream of every single cyclist, and also mine.“