Vuelta (st. 9) / GP Plouay
Nairo Quintana becomes new Vuelta GC leader after staying with Contador (TCS), Rodríguez (KAT) into Valdelinares climb. Movistar on top of teams’ overall, keeps Valverde in 3rd as Javi Moreno finishes in 4th spot following long break
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Profiting to the best from the race situations and an increasing form, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) took the leader’s jersey of the 2014 Vuelta a España from the shoulders of team-mate Alejandro Valverde after the second mountain-top finish of the Spanish grandtour, Valdelinares (Cat-1), covered under a huge storm that covered the final climbs of a 185km stage nine parcours -Cabigordo (Cat-3) and San Rafael (Cat-2) before the decisive climb- where the telephone squad assumed almost entire responsibility.
A big break of 31 riders, including Movistar Team’s Javi Moreno, added enormous stress to a bunch that covered 96 kilometers in the first two hours of racing. The gap, stabilized at eight minutes on the foot of the first ascent, was kept not too high by wise, consistent teamwork by Amador, Erviti and Malori at the front of the bunch, while all other team-mates protected Quintana and Valverde with no troubles until the last climb. Before that one, in San Rafael, Moreno jumped away together with Anacona (LAM), virtual leader on the road, and Jungels (TFR), contesting a stage victory that was eventually taken by the Colombian -just 9″ short to the race lead- while the Spaniard finished in 4th place.
The control by OPQS, Katusha and ultimately Sky picked up the pace, closed the gaps and shrunk the group, with both of the Blues’ references always present. An attack by Contador (TCS) forced Nairo to react, moving ahead with just over 1k remaining and starting a pursuit along with Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT), the three reaching the finish 2’15” after Anacona. Valverde, sticked to Froome’s wheel until the end, came across the line 25″ later. The GC is closer than ever -Nairo; Contador at 3″; Alejandro now 8″ down; Froome 28″ adrift; Rodríguez 30″ behind, yet is should start to be cleared out in the demanding 37km ITT from Vera de Moncayo to Borja scheduled on Tuesday. Before that, Movistar Team will enjoy the Vuelta’s first rest day with both individual and teams’ leaderships in the race.
Nairo Quintana: “Normally, all climatic conditions are good for me, but I was feeling a bit down due to the heat we had to bear in the first days of racing. I had good legs today and we worked to keep the jersey within this team. My team-mates did really great and I could keep the wheel of the main favourites to snatch this leader jersey. Actually, I just sticked to them until the finish – today’s stage didn’t create big selection and though I’m in the lead, it’s almost a goalless draw up to this point. I don’t know if we will be able to keep it until the end; it’s what we want, but it will be difficult. I don’t do bad at time trials, but I’m not a specialist either. I’ll ride flat-out on Tuesday to defend my chances and keep this jumper. Today’s result confirms I’m ready to lead the team, but there’s no discussion in here: we’re both leaders, we’re both there, and no matter if it’s Alejandro or myself – the goal is keeping it within the team.”
Alejandro Valverde: “After all that we suffered with heat the other days, these temperatures were quite a drastic change. Considering that this weather does not do too well on me, I think we didn’t have such bad sensations and we can stay happy with today’s result. When Nairo went ahead, I sticked to Froome’s wheel – I couldn’t bring him back to Nairo’s wheel. I just rode on his wheel and jumped in the final 150, 200 meters so I could take one or two seconds. The Sky riders really scared everyone, even Froome himself – I got surprised they rode so fast while his leader hadn’t shown as brilliant as he thought he could be. I’m happy with the white jersey, as much as I was in red, and even more now that Nairo is in the lead. We changed the race leader, but the jersey is still with us. We never hid the situation: for me, Nairo was the reference, while I’d try, as I’ll still do, to stay up-front until the end, but with no pressure. Now we’re first and third and we have a beautiful, demanding TT in front of us, where we will surely do well. I don’t really dislike the TT parcours: it’s a hard one, and when that’s the case, I usually do well.”
Attitude unrewarded in Plouay
A few hours before the Vuelta, the GP Ouest-France in Plouay -229km over nine laps of the famous 2000 Worlds circuit, in the rolling roads of Brittany- showed as uncontrollable and full of pace changes as in previous editions. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) crowned a seven-man attempt formed with just 2km remaining, with sprinters’ teams unable to fill the gaps after the last climb of Ty-Marrec. The break attempts by Dayer Quintana and Jesús Herrada, still in form after his win on Friday, plus the work at the front by Jasha Sütterlin, did not find reward into the sprint, where Enrique Sanz, tenth within the group at the finish, could only be 17th.