Vuelta (st. 18) / Tour of Britain (st. 5)
Movistar becomes new leader in Vuelta teams' classification after Spaniard attacks repeated times in La Quesera to finish in 4th, now 2pt behind lead in Points ranking. Quintana stays in 5th
They got back into the fight to improve their overall result and, even though they didn’t today, they inadvertently took sort of a reward and felt leaders again. The Movistar Team is now three days away from repeating in Cibeles their Paris podium as best squad in a Grand Tour, as they took the lead in the Vuelta ranking -with almost 6’ over Sky- after three of its riders, breakaway member José Joaquín Rojas plus GC contenders Quintana and Valverde, came into the main group across Riaza’s finish, following a long (204 km), hard stage from Roa.
It wasn’t an easy ride for neither Rojillas, part of a 25-man move formed up after a tremendously fast, opening 60km, nor Nairo and ‘Bala’, involved in a flurry of attacks during the final 35 kilometers which the Spanish road race champion provoked mostly during the La Quesera climb (Cat-1). However, extreme control within the race favourites, despite the lumpy terrain, with rough roads and some crosswinds, avoided any gaps and kept the Blues in fifth and sixth overall. Valverde is also now two points (116 vs. 114) behind the lead in the Points jersey.
Friday will bring another hard route on stage 19: 185.8km from Medina del Campo to Ávila, over the ascents of Valdavia (Cat-3), La Paramera (Cat-2) and the finish against the famous Walls of the city.
Alejandro Valverde: “There was no way – we tried it but we couldn’t. To be honest, Astana took some efforts and it was needed for them too; you’ve got to test the leader’s legs, and we all did, but you could see Dumoulin is feeling really strong, he’s able to resist Aru’s moves and is one of the strongest in the peloton at the moment. The podium is becoming difficult for us, but I won’t settle – we will keep on trying.”
Nairo Quintana: “We decided to try some moves and seek for the podium, after the moral boost following our recovery in the TT. We rested well on Tuesday, prepared ourselves for the challenge -we were on sort of a low after the hard days we had gone through- and, while Alejandro is a specialist, I had one of those days where I perform well on such a course and we both improved our GC positions. Now our goal is to bring the fans, the people watching on TV, the team fans some happiness. That’s why Alejandro tried a little, I did into the descent… and we will continue so until the end of the Vuelta.
“I don’t know if we will be the key for the podium – there were too many interests from other teams to chase every move. Still, in days like today you enjoy when you’re recovered, you feel great when it’s hard and hope for the other to suffer, even though you only pray for the ‘attacks to stop when it’s on the contrary, just like when I was ill. Tomorrow? We’ll react depending on the race situation, something you can’t easily predict.”
Tour of Britain: Fine team performance in Hartside
After a two-day spell in yellow, Juanjo Lobato left room to his climbing team-mates in a Tour of Britain whose overall classification is now led by Boasson Hagen (MTN), following a long (9km), yet not-so-steep ascent towards Hartside Fell. An attack by the Norwegian was eventually overtaken by Dutchman Wout Poels (SKY) in the closing meters, both part of a four-man front group featuring a notable Beñat Intxausti.
The Basque climber took 3rd place -with Rubén Fernández in 9th, immediately behind into a first serious pursuit group- and sits now 4th in the GC, with three Movistar riders -including Gorka Izagirre- within the top 20, Blues now in the lead of the teams' classification. The numerous climbs on Friday’s ride towards Nottingham (192km) might become the last opportunity to break the peloton, as stages in the weekend are mainly flat.