Tour de France (st. 2)
Quintana, Valverde dropped after crash into bunch with 50km remaining; concede 1'28", yet keep most chances alive in hectic Tour stage two
In a day where time gaps seemed like possibly decisive as a result of rain, numerous crashes and crosswinds into the last third of stage two in the 2015 Tour de France -166km between Utrecht and Neeltje Jans in the province of Zeeland-, Movistar Team still kept hopes alive as their two main references, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, only lost 1'28" to a 25-rider group including overall classification contenders Contador (TCS), Froome (SKY) and van Garderen (BMC).
A pile-up by some riders from LottoNL-Jumbo as the peloton rode strung out with 50km remaining took the Colombian out of position and forced the whole Unzué-led squad, with Malori, Dowsett, Gorka Izagirre, Erviti, Castroviejo and Anacona -who crashed twice and suffered bruises in his elbow, leg and nose plus a slight ankle sprain, all of which won't avoid him to continue racing-, to insist and keep gaps around one minute, until Winner's second crash opened a further gap impossible to get back for the Blues.
"All those crashes under the rain were a bit unlucky for us," said Quintana to journalists next to the Movistar Team bus after the stage. "We lost a bit of time, but we hope to get it back, day by day. We managed to keep the squad together, also joined our forces with Astana's and kept the gap closer than it could have been."
In turn, Valverde recognized it hadn't been "a good day. It was really complicated due to foul weather, stressful. The important thing is that we two didn't crash and everything has just started." The Spaniard explained that “Nairo was at the front with Dowsett, but the group started to split into the crosswinds, it also started to rain, another crash happened, we turned left towards a wind-exposed zone and echelons kept forming and forming until we were all of us trailing behind. From that point on, there was nothing to do but chasing."
Unzué underlined the "dignity the group kept to save the day. Above all, we're all safe and sound, which is the only important thing. This is the Tour de France. This was one of the risks we could find. When Anacona crashed for the first time, the group was already spread across the road, almost breaking into pieces, and that incident destroyed it. We came almost immediately into a 'wind zone', with some meters lost to the front, and there was no solution to that. We'd have of course liked to lose less time or bridge back, but seen how things could have gone – I wouldn't say we're satisfied, but we got through the day relatively well, with Winner crashing twice, but mainly good. Now it's time to get Anacona back at 100% and, hopefully, find some more favourable days for us."
Monday will offer the Movistar Team a chance to bounce back, with the hill-top finish in the Mur de Huy (Cat-3) after 160km that will include the late côtes of Ereffe and Cherave (Cat-4). Before today's stage, Valverde consideres "there are many favourites; I might be one of those but not the only one. We'll have to value which are the team's chances, see how Nairo does and evaluate if I can go for the stage or not. It'll also be a battle between the GC contenders. In a finish like that, you won't lose the Tour, but you might concede some seconds which, seeing how modern cycling works, might become serious."