Tour de France (st. 13)
Valverde loses all TDF podium chances after mechanical incident with 90km from the finish in Saint-Amand. Nairo Quintana stays 8th overall
Misfortune stroke Movistar Team hard in the 13th stage of the 2013 Tour de France, a stage seemingly trivial towards the GC result. The 173-kilometer flat route between Tours and Saint-Amand-Montrond brought non-stop action in the second part of the race due to crosswinds at the front. The eight Blue riders always kept the front of the bunch as they made the first selection of about 90 riders after a push from Omega Pharma-QuickStep; however, at the passage through the feed zone, a sharp brake into the group caused Alejandro Valverde’s rear wheel breaking after being hit by another rider. Quickly helped by four team-mates -including Jonathan Castroviejo, who gave him his wheel-, Valverde started a frantic pursuit with more than thirty seconds behind the main field.
The relentless work from Castroviejo, Plaza, Amador, Rojas and Erviti, later joined by Rui Costa, took the Spaniard to just twenty seconds’ distance from the first group, but a push from OPQS, Belkin and Europcar ruined Movistar Team’s chances to bridge, with Nairo Quintana always into the front group. A second attack from Saxo-Tinkoff left only 13 riders in the lead -Mark Cavendish (OPQ) would win the sprint at the finish-, with the Colombian -who stays in 8th place overall, just over five minutes behind Chris Froome (SKY)- crossed the line 1.08 back. Valverde and Costa finished almost ten minutes behind the leaders.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a day of pure bad luck, there’s nothing else. We were riding at the front, attentive, confident, well positioned as we always did in this year’s Tour, but bad luck made someone crash into me from behind and breaking the rear wheel in a crucial moment. It’s something you can’t avoid. All the team stopped to wait for me and we were really close to bridge, but some teams, like Belkin or Europcar, pushed harder. That’s cycling – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We’ve got to keep fighting and stay calm: there’s still a long way to go in this Tour, and the race might and will change a lot.
“Hopes for the rest of the race? It was hard to fight for the overall win before this stage and it’s even more complicated today, but we still have Nairo up-front and close in the overall. There’s a long week ahead, where we probably won’t be able to contest the leader jersey, but we can make some pain into the bunch. Let’s see how we plan things after this blow: Nairo is now our best GC rider and we will help him if we decide so, but we can also make a team strategy to hurt others and make the final podium. There are many mountain stages still to come and lots of things can happen. Some of those teams that helped out so I didn’t bridge can see their race hardened. The team gave 100% today – it actually was a tremendously hard day for everyone in the race.”
José Luis Arrieta (DS): “It was a day to forget and learn – you learn from every experience. Looking at our Tour before this stage, seeing how the boys were riding and how they fought today, it’s really sad. They were all eight into the first echelon, but a crash in the feed zone broke some radiuses from Alejandro’s rear wheel and there was no option at all to bridge back. The route was nasty, there were many interests at the front to push so sprinters could contest the stage… many circumstances combined – that’s cycling. They would probably not have pushed so hard in other situations, but it looks like Alejandro is more feared than some other riders.
“It’s sad to see everthing lost under such misfortune after spending the whole Tour at the front. But that’s how the Tour works – I hope we will get paid back after such a big blow. We were talking with a race commisaire at the moment of the crash because there was more than a minute between two groups and we wouldn’t be able to help any of our riders if such situation happened. The team gave everything and Nairo was always where he had to be, hanging in there, defending himself against the wind. It’s also a shame we lost the lead in the teams’ classification and Rui’s GC place, but the race forced you to sacrifice everything to keep the big goal alive – that’s what we did.
“Physically, the boys are feeling just as well as they did before the stage. The best thing about this is that we have another race tomorrow, and we’re right into the fight. We can’t really ask anything from Nairo – we can’t put more pressure on Nairo than the one he already creates on himself. He’s doing really well and has proven he’s one of the best climbers in the race, but it’s his first-ever Tour and he’s really young. We’ll see. We have to redefine our strategy, but there’s still a lot of mountains to come in this Tour. We’ll probably make our calculations and miss these ten minutes in the overall with Alejandro, but he will be riding just as he has done until today. Despite all crashes last year, he was able to bounce back and win a stage, and I’m sure he’ll keep fighting.”