Tour de France (st. 11)
Spaniard stays in 2nd overall in the Tour after notable TT, losing just two minutes to Froome (SKY) and keeping the main favourites behind. Quintana, Costa now in 8th and 9th GC
The Movistar Team leaders passed another important test in the 2013 Tour de France on Wednesday, with arguably the most complicated stage for their characteristics in the race’s only flat ITT: 33km from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel whipper by strong winds, favourable for most of the parcours, which took the winner’s average speed -World Champion Tony Martin (OPQ) took another success in his speciality- above 54 kph. The German narrowly beat race leader Chris Froome (SKY) after clocking all best times in the morning, with Spanish TT champion Jonathan Castroviejo doing a notable effort to clock the 10th fastest time of the day.
Froome was superior to all main rivals in the overall classification; within those, Alejandro Valverde executed a solid defense. Equal timed to Mollema (BEL), Contador and Kreuziger (TST) in the two intermediate references, the Spaniard ended up beating the latter two to come across the finish just two minutes sharp behind Froome and only seven seconds off Mollema’s pace. Valverde still beats the Dutchman for 2nd overall and will have to work hard in all the mountains still to come, with the Mont Ventoux on Sunday followed by the long Alpine block in the last week of racing. Behind him, Rui Costa -3.04 after Martin- and Nairo Quintana -3.27 back- conserve their respective places in the GC’s top ten -the Colomian is 8th, momentarily losing his white jersey, with the Portuguese in 9th- and keep the Movistar jersey on top of the teams’ classification.
Thursday will bring the first of three stages leading the Grande Boucle into the mountains, with no rated climbs in the 218km between Fougères and Tours.
Alejandro Valverde: “I’m supper happy. I think it was a good day as well for myself as for the team. We’ve got over of the most important days for us in this race, though it’s obvious that all mountains still ahead are serious and we have to give our best. Leaving Froome aside – all of us know he’s a step above the rest – I did quite the same times of the other main favourites, or even better. TT’s are suffering, suffering and suffering, even more when you have such a fast parcours – I made almost 52 kph average, and that proves it was a day for heavier guys, bigger specialists than I am, but I’m in good form and morale and things turned out well. It’s true that I didn’t have the best feelings at the start of the time trial. I might have been too still after warming up and that cost me losing a bit of time getting the nerves on. Still, the time references were good from the very start, and that made me more confident to give 100%. It’s my best-ever performance on flat TT’s in the Tour, completely sure.
“As I stated, Froome is one step above the rest, and though I’m always looking towards the top, I’m also paying attention at the other rivals – Mollema was the only one to put time on me, just seven seconds, which are nothing in 33km. I was faster than all the other guys: Alberto, Purito… I think that’s good. Now it’s time for three flat stages before the next mountains, but those won’t be easy at all. All days are hard at the Tour; that legend of easy days in France is false. There’s a 218km stage ahead tomorrow and we’ll have to stay attentive, protecting ourselves against the wind, staying away from crashes. The team has been superb so far – I always say it, but it’s crucial to have such great support beside me, and I must thank you all of them once again for that.”
Nairo Quintana: “Today’s overview is positive. I left behind a hard day for me, probably the worst for my characteristics in this year’s Tour. I didn’t make my dream TT, but it was a good result since I didn’t lost too much time on the riders I’m battling with in the standings. It was a complicated day for me with the wind – when it’s a tailwind, it favours heavier riders, and when it blows on our faces, being a flat TT, you have to put some power, and it’s not easy with my body. I think I lost the most time in the beginning, but I gained some pace after that and improved my result. I lost the white jersey, but I hope to get it back in some mountain stage and keep it until the end. Kwiatkowski will be a tough rival, but the stages ahead are quite demanding and that’s good for me. We all at the team lost some time, but we’re staying within the best ten overall, and we hope to improve it in the remainder of the race.“
Rui Costa: “To be honest, I didn’t feel quite well in this time trial. I tried to make a strong start, like I always do, and the first references were good, but afterwards I didn’t feel well. I gave everything, and when one gives everything he has, he can’t be told to give more. It didn’t go like planned, but the day is over and we must stay confident to search for better results. I’m still happy and proud to have worn the new outfit as Portuguese TT champion, even more because it was a nice design. We have done ten days of racing already, and it’s not the same to tackle such a TT halfway through the race than doing it on day three. Ever since we got to mainland France, race got a bit harder due to the wind, the battle for position into the bunch… all of that makes things harder. Let’s hope the race stays a bit more calm from tomorrow and till Saturday. Alejandro defended himself well and that’s important – beating Froome into a TT is quite a difficult thing, and should we keep the second place overall, we must be happy – it will mean we did really well.”
Jonathan Castroviejo: “I think I’ve done quite a good TT, a similar performance to the one in Dauphiné, but the route and the wind conditioned the result really much. There were tailwinds during most of the parcours – some crosswinds in the final part of the ITT, but mostly favourbale. I used a 56-11 for most of the race. The Tour has really surprised me. You can imagine what it is to be here, but it really impresses you once you’re in. Even after riding important races like Dauphiné, Paris-Nice or Tirreno, the Tour is even harder, and it’s hard to get used to it. Tension into the first days is huge: all teams make big efforts not to lose any time, though it seems things have calmed up after the Pyrenees, and I hope the race is a bit more calm in the upcoming days. I put up with pressure quite well and heat doesn’t do bad on me, as seen in the Olympics or the Vuelta a España last year, so I hope to be here in the next few years. You learn a lot from Alejandro, even Nairo – a young guy but still with lots of experience – and especially from the veterans: Imanol or Iván. I felt myself better and better these days and hope to help Alejandro out as much as I can in the Alpes. We’re focused, willing and strong – let’s hope we can do something beautiful.”