Vuelta al Pais Vasco (st. 3)
Young Colombian takes 4th in La Lejana, just eight seconds off the lead after excellent work from Movistar Team, now on top of collective standings
Movistar Team fulfilled the expectations marking them as one of the strongest blocks in the 53rd Vuelta al País Vasco during stage three, a 167-kilometer trek from Vitoria to the slopes of La Lejana (Cat. 2), where the telephone squad proved their great condition. The teamwork by Cobo, Moreno and Madrazo all day to protect the Blue squad’s top guns was continued by the excellent effort from Jonathan Castroviejo and José Herrada, who splitted the peloton and significantly reduced the gaps with the day’s break at the climb of La Reineta (Cat. 2), just over 30k from the finish.
The two riders from the Spanish team, as well as Intxausti, Costa and Nairo Quintana, tackled the final ascent with the main favourites. The La Lejana climb, with three separate slopes close to 20% average, saw Colombian Sergio Henao (SKY), attacking twice – the first attempt, in the short ‘repecho’ of Las Calizas, 4k from the finish, was quickly responded by Quintana, who, in turn, opted to stay on his own pace when his countryman went for an earlier move by Betancur (ALM) and Caruso (KAT) in the final kick. Nairo came across the finish after the trio and gained precious seconds over the main favourites to jump into 2nd overall, just 8 seconds off the leader’s jersey.
Quintana and the Movistar Team -who now lead the collective standings thanks to great performances from Intxausti and Herrada, still within the best ten overall- are now bound to fight for the final GC in three infamous days in the Basque Country. The first one will take them atop the Santuario de Arrate, the end of the 151km stage four, with five climbs: two Cat. 2 -Pagatza and Karabieta- and three Cat. 1 -Ixua, San Miguel and Usartza, the latter just 2k from the end-.
REACTION / Nairo Quintana: “The day’s overview must be positive, but I’m a little upset because I didn’t get into perfect position at some decisive points in the finale and the result was worse than what I could have done. I know Henao perfectly and knew that he was really strong; plus, I might have made a mistake attacking earlier than him and he might have profited from that, following my wheel and later dropping me. I’m confident towards what’s to come because I proved I can ride with the favourites. I hope to keep my chances alive for Saturday’s TT and give my best there. Arrate’s climb tomorrow is one that I like, but many riders use to get there with chances to win and opening time gaps will be difficult. It’s gonna be a hard day, as well as Friday’s, with several climbs and the rain, which might make it even more tricky. I must thank all team-mates, because they were all day up-front protecting me, in all key moments, and whether I couldn’t get even better at the finish, it was completely my fault. It’s been a great day for my country, with three Colombian riders within the best four. You might say Colombian cycling is back at the top!”