Tour de San Luis (et. 5)
Adriano Malori wins first-ever TT as Movistar Team rider in Argentina -with Amador in 5th-; Nairo Quintana seizes overall lead with two days left for finale
It was an unforgettable Friday evening for the Movistar Team in the 8th Tour de San Luis, fortune giving its best face to the riders directed by José Luis Jaimerena. After Thursday’s convincing win by Nairo Quintana atop the Cerro El Amago, the telephone squad upped their victory account to two with Adriano Malori, the strongest man on the 19-kilometer individual time trial in and around the province’s capital. Twenty-two minutes and eleven seconds made the Italian unbeatable -it was actually the best time in seven editions of the course-, with only Taylor Phinney (BMC) getting close in 2nd, three seconds back.
A two-hour wait for the Blue rider on the hotseat lasted until the GC guys, including Nairo Quintana, the penultimate man down the start ramp as second overall who proved his ambition with the 16th time of the day -just over a minute behind Malori and barely twenty seconds slower than Andrey Amador, a notable 5th today- to beat race leader Gaimon (GRS) for the orange jersey, with just two days remaining before the triumphant march on Sunday. The Movistar Team will now have to defend a 26-second margin over the American -and more than two minutes on third-placed Godoy (SLS)- with the final mountain-top finish scheduled for Saturday: the Mirador del Sol (6.4km at 8.5%, with infamous final slopes), ending point of the longest run in the Argentinian race (184km) from Las Chacras.
Adriano Malori: “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to win because Phinney was focused on taking the win here and was the number-one favourite. But once I got into the race, I realized I was rolling strong. I knew the parcours from last year’s race, when I claimed 5th, and I knew my time was going to be good because I was feeling well. I did another recon this morning behind the team car and was determined to perform well, because I liked the route. It’s a very important win for me, especially from a psychological point of view. It’s January 24th yet, and this gives me much confidence for the remainder of the season. My next goal will be Dubai, where I hope to shine in the TT, too. It’s true that Phinney seems like the man closest to the likes of Martin, Cancellara and Wiggins, and I beat him, but my main challenge this year is precisely that, and I talked about it with Eusebio Unzué: getting closer to those three references, the best specialists in the world. This victory is dedicated to my girlfriend, Elisa, who will be celebrating her birthday in three days’ time, and to a friend who did a lot for me, Mirko Rossato. The team? I’m feeling here better than I ever imagined. I feel like I’ve spent more than a month with them, because there’s great bond within its members, and that’s the biggest strength of this group. The day was perfect, with my victory and Nairo’s leader jersey. Now it’s time for me to focus on defending it tomorrow and helping Ventoso out on Sunday so he can win the sprint.”
Nairo Quintana: “It was a beautiful day for the whole team and that what makes me most happy. Especially with Malori, who did a remarkable time trial, and myself, as I could take over the leader’s jersey. Iwas coming into this TT a bit more with focus on not losing time and testing my legs against the clock, but I felt strong during the parcours and the result proves it. Though I was riding for the first time with this TT bike, I felt really well. It’s an amazing bike and the legs responded well, too. This gives me confidence for the days left in the race. I’m tackling that final mountain stage in a different way that I expected. I had to attack to win, but now we’ll be racing in a more defensive way, letting a small break going away and responding to attacks that will certainly happen into the final ascent. Having such a strong team makes me even more confident – not onl for tomorrow, but for the whole season and ever since the very first day of racing. Let’s hope we can retain this jersey until Sunday. After that, it’ll be time to head back to Spain for the team presentation and then again back to Colombia, to witness the birth of my baby. I can’t really miss that particular stage – at all!”