Tour de France (st. 19)
Portuguese wins Queen stage of the 2013 Tour de France in Le Grand-Bornand, notches up second Movistar Team success in this year’s Grande Boucle and 16th in three years of Grand Tours. Nairo Quintana stays in 3rd overall; Valverde now into top ten
The third week of the 2013 Tour de France keeps smiling to the Movistar Team, victorious again on Friday with the same man who brought them their first stage win last Tuesday in Gap. Rui Costa claimed another convincing success in the toughest route of the race: 204km from Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand with five hard rated climbs, including the Glandon and La Madeleine (HC) right from the start plus Tamié (Cat-2), L’Épine (Cat-1) and the Croix-Fry (Cat-1) in the final 70k of racing.
Always helped by team-mates Rubén Plaza and José Joaquín Rojas, the Portuguese rider was one of the 43 members of the biggest escape today, formed before the first ascent with just 10k covered. The easy pace into the bunch, with Sky pushing in the opening stages until Saxo-Tinkoff took control before the last climb, helped the attempt reaching twelve minutes of advantage, with several attacks including a move from Pierre Rolland (EUC), a long attempt neutralized by Costa himself. The Iberian attacked with eight kilometers from the top of the Croix-Fry, leaving the Frenchman behind and setting an impressive pace to reach the summit with more than a minute’s advantage. Rui was able to keep the pace into the downhill to claim his sixth victory of the 2013 and the 19th of his pro career. It’s also Movistar Team’s 25th success of the year, taking their GT victory tally up to 16 -8 consecutive Grand Tours- and increasing the history list to 75 triumphs with their current sponsor.
Behind, the action did not unleash until the final kilometers of the Croix-Fry. A move from Alejandro Valverde alongside John Gadret (ALM) was the launching pad for Nairo Quintana, who couldn’t eventually profit after hail storm stroke the main favourites in the finale. The two Blues came together across the finish to keep Nairo in 3rd spot overall, with Valverde back into the top-ten (9th) before Saturday’s 2013 Tour showdown. The slopes of Semnoz (HC; 10.7km / 8.5%) will close a short, 125-kilometer trek starting at Annecy and including five other rated climbs, most notably the Mont Revard (Cat-1) with 47k remaining.
Rui Costa: “I’m really happy. First thing, I have to thank Plaza and Rojas, my team-mates into the break, who helped me in everything. They left me fresh at the foot of the last climb so I only had to attack and win, and things went perfectly. It was basically the same strategy from the other day: I had to wait for the last climb and make a move. Fortunately, my legs responded as good as they could do. I think this victory will bring much calmness to the team. Since that day into the crosswinds, my goal was clearly going for stage wins; we had to forget about what happened, and we will really do, because I will remember this Tour by what happened afterwards: these two victories that make me so happy. Movistar is not only Nairo and me: there’s Alejandro, always up-front, and a huge team helping us out, making a massive work you often don’t see – we ove them everything we have. We’ll be helping Nairo tomorrow – he’s impressive. Let’s see if we can get him safely into the podium. These two stages go to all the people supporting me from Portugal and all those ones always by my side.”
Nairo Quintana: “We’re all really happy about Rui’s victory. We had three riders at the front and they did a superb job. This victory proves that we are still a solid team, able to fight for all goals. In my case, the final climb was really fast and the rain took us a bit off the mood to attack. We tried to send Valverde ahead in the finale to see if we could bridge later, but we had no chance to attack – at least we ended up still into the podium, with no troubles. We will have to see how the stage holds tomorrow; sometimes, one thinks that things will go some way, and they turn the other way round in reality. It will be a hard day to keep the podium and we will have to pay attention to any attack from our rivals.”
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really hard stage. Though we tackled all climbs with a steady pace, it was a 5,000-meter drop, and the rain showed up in the finale to make it a bit more spicy. I knew it was going to be impossible for the others to let me go into the break and I didn’t even try it, because being so high in the overall would make all teams defend their own positions. I preferred to stay with Nairo for any need he would have, and at the final climb, he told me to attack so I could bridge later, but Purito came with him and they stopped. I’m showing again I have the legs to be on the podium, and I would be there if it hadn’t happened what did on stage 13. There’s another opportunity tomorrow, but I don’t think about the stage win at all. It will be still welcome if it comes, but the team already has two and we have to keep the overall podium. We did another great race today – all the guys were fantastic, we always rode at the front and the reward of Rui’s victory was excellent.”