Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 4)
Just like Valverde in the 2012 Vuelta a España, Quintana shows courage and intelligence into the final downhill and gets just 6 seconds off the Itzulia’s leader jersey
Nairo Quintana showed again at the Santuario de Arrate, the end of stage four in the Vuelta al País Vasco -with 151 kilometers and five categorized climbs from the start in Trapagaran-, the abilities that appoint him as one of the riders set to lead the next generation in cycling. The Colombian climber from the Movistar Team claimed his 11th victory as pro rider at the Eibar summit after exceptional work from his team-mates under soaking rain and intense cold.
The telephone squad came into action at the penultimate climb, San Miguel (Cat. 2), in search of the day’s five-man break, whose four-minute margin at the foot of the ascent was almost halved by the effort from Cobo, Moreno, Madrazo and a superb Jonathan Castroviejo. The approach to the Alto de Usartza (Cat. 1) ruined the escapees’ chances as the Blues tried to keep the pace high, with a strong leadout by Rui Costa and an attack by José Herrada that forced the main favourites to put all their cards on the table halfway through the climb.
Quintana always paid attention at the front and reach the summit -just under 2k from the finishing line- together with race leader Henao, Porte (SKY), Contador (STB), Péraud and Betancur (ALM) and Spilak (KAT). And just like Alejandro Valverde pulled off last year, the Colombian youngster risked into the final turns to put a gap on the rest of the short field in the wet roads and take the stage win as well as an extra two seconds that put him just six behind the overall leadership.
With the 24km ITT in Beasain on Saturday always in mind, Nairo and Movistar Team will tackle in good spirits what is set to be the Queen stage on Friday: 166km with no less than ten Cat. 2 and 3 climbs, including most notably the three passages through the infamous Olaberria (1.4km / 12% average), the last one just 6k from the end.
REACTION / Nairo Quintana: “It’s a very important win for me because this is one of the biggest races in the World Tour. It’s a massive joy for me and a huge boost of confidence for the future, because this climb has such a rich history, and the weather conditions all day, with cold and rain, make it really special. The team worked perfectly all day long and I only had to put my best effort at the end. The rain took much energy out of us and none knew how their rivals were, hence the lack of attacks. I kept my mind cold in the Arrate climb to avoid any timing errors like yesterday, and only took risks into the downhill. I knew the finale, because we went into the recon and we saw that the final meters were the key for the result. I took chances there and it paid off.
“This victory is for all team members. The mechanics, the carers, the sports directors… all of them who fully commit to us, and also my team-mates, always helping out: bringing me some food, a rain jacket, protecting me for the weekend. It’s real clockwork and it brings you results. We still have two stages left; when we started the race, they seemed decisive, and it looks so now. We hope to stay as it is now tomorrow and give our best into the TT. I know the route and it suits me well, with some climbing too – I don’t really do bad in the flat. It will be hard, because we will have to fight with the likes of Sergio, Contador and Porte, those that everyone is naming, but also with riders like Spilak, which have shown themselves strong this week.”