Tour de France (st. 20)
Nairo Quintana closer than ever to victory in Alpe d’Huez, becomes virtual 2nd in 2015 TDF GC; Alejandro Valverde secures his third overall and crowns a big goal in his career after attacking strategy from Movistar -virtual teams' classification winners- all over final mountain stage
The Movistar Team rounded off a magnificent 2015 Tour de France in the only way all its members can do it: with courage, composure and offering their individual and collective best. Nairo Quintana finished just 18" away from conquering the most famous climb in modern cycling, Alpe d'Huez (Hors Categorie), as 2nd over the line behind Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), after a 110km journey with the previous, grueling climb of Croix de Fer (also HC), which the riders directed by Eusebio Unzué tackled on the attack, ready to win and lose everything.
A move from Alejandro Valverde, who started the day as third on the overall standings, just over 60 kilometers from the finish line, was later seconded by Quintana, both trying to blow up Chris Froome's Sky train. The Briton had to respond by himself, together with Vincenzo Nibali (AST), to get through the emergency and let the group recompose. Winner Anacona, already active into the early attacks, went after that on the move again, pursuing a four-man attempt up the road and ammassing a two-minute advantage that would take him into perfect position before the 14km Alpe d'Huez climb. There, the Blues were the most courageous again.
Three accelerations from Nairo, almost consecutive, and a final attack from Valverde forced Froome to limit losses -eventually 1'20" against Nairo at the finish- and intelligently manage his domestiques to stop the 'bleeding'. While 'Bala' got back to the race leader after pushing for Nairo, the Cómbita-based rider found another excellent piece of support from Anacona, rushing through the central part of the ascent, to later attack in search for Pinot, whom he would ultimately not chase down.
Nevertheless, the effort was really worth: Quintana, who will be crowned tomorrow as best young rider in the Tour for the second time in his career barring any misfortune, all but confirmed his second place on the podium -1'12" behind Froome-. In turn, Valverde burst into tears by claiming an almost certain 3rd in the GC (+5'25"), which completes a career full of success. With Anacona in 8th spot, the Movistar riders confirrmed their teams' overall victory, almost one hour ahead of Team Sky.
Nairo Quintana: “We fought all that we could to try and gain the time we had lost on Froome, with an attacking strategy from far, far away from the finish, trying to isolate him at the Croix de Fer, yet we couldn't open a big gap and we had to give all into the final ascent. Winner Anacona did an amazing job for me, riding strong and steady through most of Alpe d'Huez, and the whole team helped me much from the very start, but it wasn't to be today.
"I leave the race satisfied. We lost the Tour into the first week, but I'll stay content after all good things we found during this race: I've got an excellent team, which always took care and supported me, and we all are happy with this. Alejandro? I'm so, so excited about his podium finish. It's something he searched for during most of his sporting career, and he got it today. There's many people who don't know the kind of rider he is: he wins from January to December, no matter if it's a classic, a one-week race… and even podium finishes in three-week grandtours. It's already a decade since he's on top of the sport and many people don't value enough what he does, and criticized him. He's a superb rider and a wonderful person."
Alejandro Valverde: “This GC podium is something I've been chasing all my life, and I finally got it today. It took so much, lots of suffering. In this moment, I remember my family, my four kids, the staff and team-mates from Movistar, everyone who supported me through my career. It's a wonderful taste to have finished third, since we gave all that we had. We jumped into the previous climb, also tried to leave Froome behind on previous stages… we just left everything on the road. I also sacrified myself Nairo, helped him out wherever it was needed – we came for the overall title and it went away by just over a minute. Hats off to Froome – he managed the race well and was stronger. Our overview is exceptional: we're jumping onto the podium as teams' classification winners and myself and Nairo will be second and third overall – what else you can ask for."
Ion grazes fourth Izagirre win in Ordizia (2nd)
While their team-mates were covering the opening phase of the Tour’s decisive stage, the Movistar Team brought a second roster into racing at the 92nd Prueba Villafranca – Clásica de Ordizia, where the riders directed by José Luis Jaimerena rode offensive all the way to the finish.
Marc Soler, present into the eight-man early breakaway covering four of the five climbs to Abaltzisketa at the front, and Enrique Sanz, also in the lead for a few kilometers after the Catalan was caught, left room to an in-form Jesús Herrada (13th), who rode alongside Howson (OGE) and eventual winner Ángel Madrazo (CJR) until the decisive ‘muro’ of Gaintza.
Ion Izagirre went on the attack into that decisive point, overtook Madrazo and also reached down Amets Txurruka (CJR), the Caja Rural duo contesting a two-against-one sprint with the local rider, who was close to a fourth victory for the Izagirre saga after three claimed by Gorka (2010-12-14).