Tour de France (st. 16)
Valverde, Quintana safe and sound after dangerous descent of Manse, with all favourites mainly together. Plaza (LAM) wins in Gap; Erviti 15th after long break
The link between the Col de Manse (Cat-2) and La Rochette, its amazing speed and terrifying turns again put the bunch into maximum stress during stage 16 of the 2015 Tour de France. Rubén Plaza (LAM) took a solo win after jumping from a massive, 24-rider breakaway -which got no less than 20 minutes’ advantage on the foot of the last climb- which included a happily recovered Imanol Erviti, 15th over the line just over two minutes behind.
Back at the peloton, strong pace from BMC, Astana and ultimately Tinkoff-Saxo into the approach and start of the Manse climb reduced the group to about ten riders, and acted as launchpad for multiple attacks featuring most notably Contador (TCS), Nibali (AST) -who anticipated the rest over the line- or even Alejandro Valverde, who led the whole descent to avoid crashes like the one involving Warren Barguil (TGA) and Geraint Thomas (SKY).
Valverde (+4’02”) and Quintana (+3’10”) will thus reach the final rest day on places four and two GC, ready to fight until the very end of a long Alpine journey from Wednesday to Saturday 25th. The only negative sidenote of Monday's racing, a crash by Adriano Malori, resulted in blows and bruises which will not jeopardize his continuity into the race, yet will have an influence on his performance for the next few days.
Imanol Erviti: “We knew there would surely be fireworks between the favourites; it was a climb that really favoured them and one where we had to pay full attention into the descent. That’s why, and that applies to both myself and my team-mates, we better take care of ourselves and ride at the front and not trailing behind. I really hope Nairo and Alejandro can produce some gaps in the Alps; the peloton is struggling and many people suffer, si there’s a chance. Obviously, we’ll give everything we’ve got left for yellow; if it’s needed to sacrifice one of the two to get it, we won’t have any doubts.”
Nairo Quintana: “We got through the day unscathed, and that’s something. Almost every time the race finishes here, there’s a crash into that descent, and we nearly got involved in one today. There are some riders who take their heart out to gain some meters while they haven’t got a chance otherwise, and they take the rest into massive risks. We’ll try to rest up a bit tomorrow and think abouth the Alps, always with the yellow dream in mind. We’re willing for them to come, and we’ll keep fighting.”
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a very dangerous finish, though I wasn’t concerned at all about myself. It’s true that, due to some riders who take on these descents as if they were alone, Geraint Thomas crashes. I didn’t see Froome into risk either, though. The crash avoided our group catching Nibali, because even though I was first into that corner and didn’t see it, I realized Nairo was losing some meters and stopped a bit. At the end, it didn’t have much sense to sprint: for what? Taking 20th place? Someone tried, but we knew that it was impossible to even take any time… Still, there’s much left in this race, we’re doing well and we hope to continue with this form. We’ll enjoy the rest day as much as we can.”