Giro d'Italia (st. 16)
Superb Movistar teamwork all day supports colossal Quintana to seize Giro d’Italia leader’s jersey in chaotic Val Martello stage, one of the hardest in recent years
In one of the most hellish days in the recent history of the Giro d’Italia, with rain and snow over almost the entirety of the 139km stage sixteen from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello (Cat-1) -including two other legends of the Corsa Rosa, the Passo Gavia (Cat-1) and the Passo dello Stelvio (Cima Coppi)-, Nairo Quintana and the Movistar Team have stricken back after their suffering to claim one of the most important stages in this year’s course and wear the maglia rosa, following offensive tactics almost from the start of the stage.
Amador and Capecchi picked up the pace from halfway through the ascent towards the Gavia, stringing out the group as Quintana’s other team-mates -Antón, Izagirre, Castroviejo and Herrada- bridged into the first, difficult descent. Always with the Blues taking charge of the pace into the selected group at the Stelvio, the downhill split the group into pieces, with just six units including Quintana and Frenchman Pierre Rolland (EUC) as only GC contenders. The excelent job by Izagirre, as well as Sicard’s in favour of Rolland, made the group reach the foot of Val Martello with more than a minute and a half’s advantage. There, Quintana went into full action by himself -just a couple of turns by Rolland in the beginning, plus other one from Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (GRM), the last one to keep his wheel, in the end of the ascent- and increased the gap to the other favourites, second by second. Kelderman, Pozzovivo and Aru finished three and a half minutes behind; former leader Urán crossed the line after more than four minutes; and Evans, second overall, lost nearly 5′.
Nairo’s sensational victory -taking him into the lead, with 1’41” over Urán and 3’21” to Evans, with five days to go- has become Movistar Team’s 15th success of the season and the 18th by the Colombian since he turned pro. Quintana is the foutth rider under the direction of Eusebio Unzué –Miguel Induráin, David Arroyo and Beñat Intxausti being the other ones– to wear the maglia rosa after nineteen appearances of the team in the Corsa Rosa. Wednesday will bring the theoretically last calm day in the Giro -208km between Sarnonico and Vittorio Veneto- before three consecutive mountain-top finishes set to decide the race: Rifugio Panarotta (Thursday), the Monte Grappa TT (Friday) and the Monte Zoncolan, on Saturday.
REACTION / Nairo Quintana: “I knew the route well, though when I came to recon these Giro stages, we couldn’t climb much of the Stelvio because it was covered by snow – we still saw some sections of the downhill as well as the final climb to Val Martello. We climbed the Stelvio together and at the descent, Europcar and Hesjedal started going strong and Izagirre and myself followed their wheels. When we got to the bottom of the descent, we saw the group was split. It wasn’t an attack, by any means, nor did I hear anything about the race getting neutralized, neither from the organizers nor from the team radio. I don’t see the reason why we have such polemics around. Besides, we entered the split, but the biggest gap was actually made into the final climb towards Val Martello.
“I’m still struggling with that flu and some coughing. I’m sure my rivals will attack in the stages remaining, but I think my body is going better and better, and I have a strong team by my side. You could see it in the Stelvio, where practically the whole team was into the first group. They also had troubles with allergies and crashes, but are getting over that. I’m sure they will help me with all they can to control the race until the very last day.
“I have proven from the start of the year my second place in last year’s Tour didn’t come by chance. Winning in San Luis, then second in Tirreno, fifth in Catalunya… I keep working to be able to fight for three-week stageraces. I came here with the goal of fighting for the podium and for the time being, we got the ‘maglia rosa’, even though some people ruled me out after all the troubles I had in the last few days. This gives me confidence and confirms I can do great things in the present and future. I dedicate this to my team. I owe them everything.”