Vuelta (st. 20) / Tour of Britain (st. 7)
Intelligent, well-supported Nairo & Movistar Team climb towards 4th place overall in 2015 Vuelta after breathtaking showdown in Madrid climbs, as Dumoulin (TGA), Alejandro Valverde -set to finish in 7th place- struggle. Blues about to win teams' overall
The Madrilian Sierra offer the best possible finish to the 2015 Vuelta a España, with everything turning upside on stage 20, the last day in terms of GC contention, over 175km between San Lorenzo de El Escorial and Cercedilla including two ascents towards Morcuera, one climb of Navacerrada and the decisive uphill towards Cotos. The Movistar Team took a strong gamble for the race podium and came only half a minute short to make it real, as Nairo Quintana played his chances with wisdom, strength and great team support.
Four riders from the squad directed by Arrieta and Chente -Andrey Amador, Fran Ventoso, José Joaquín Rojas and Giovanni Visconti- entered a breakaway of nearly 40 members, which saw Rubén Plaza (LAM) jumping away early, into the first climb of Morcuera, to complete a 114km breakaway to victory, despite Visconti’s attempts in the pursuit group to reduce his gap. Behind, insistence by Astana during the second Morcuera ascent and an attack by Fabio Aru in the final slopes took Rafal Majka (TCS) and Quintana with him, while Valverde and race leader Tom Dumoulin (TGA) were left behind.
The descent and subsequent climb towards Cotos saw a multiple pursuit forming up. While the leader saw his advantage vanish and Alejandro -helped out by Rojas and Ventoso- struggled but ultimately kept seventh overall, Nairo attacked on the hardest section of Cotos with Majka, the duo later joined by a providential Amador in the flat portion before the Navacerrada descent, plus some turns from Visconti in the finale. The two ammassed an almost 50" gap which made the Movistar Team dream of the podium. At the end, only 33" left Quintana away from Majka’s third spot, with Rodríguez (KAT) only 45” ahead in second. A more than satisfactory result after the Colombian’s illness through most of the second week of the race.
Aru will wear tomorrow the final red jersey into Madrid’s traditional circuit in the Paseo del Prado and the Gran Vía, while the Movistar riders hold the lead -and virtual victory- in the teams’ classification, only 24 hours away from repeating the exploit from the 1999 season by steeping all together onto the final podium in both Champs-Élysées and Cibeles.
Nairo Quintana: “I feel happy. Obviously I would have been more if I'd won but, as I already stated a few days ago, I could perfectly be sitting now at home, in front of the TV, after all the suffering I had to go through during the Andorra stage and the days after that. Seeing myself almost out of the race, and ending it this way… it's really rewarding for me, something to be much satisfied about.
"There wasn't room on the previous stages to attack as we did on today's, the climbs before the finish suiting me really better. I had to save energy yesterday to give everything today, and we sort of succeeded – we gave all we had and the result was quite good. The strategy went nearly as we designed pre-race during the team talk. Up until my attack and through the summit of Cotos, with the support I got from my team-mates, it went fantastic, but we missed a bit of luck because our rivals also had team-mates with them, they were strong and could defend themselves from the attack.
"I really put much energy into this Vuelta to finish it. I was sad after having to abandon in 2014 with those crashes – I really felt like I had a strong chance to win it, or simply being within the race contenders. I couldn't leave this race again without making it to the end; I gave all that was left into my body and I'm really happy with this fourth place.”
Tour of Britain: Dowsett shines into breakaway, Lobato takes 12th
Fifteen days away from the road race in the Richmond World Championships, the Tour of Britain offered its participants a 227km 'test' from Fakenham to Ipswich, which Greipel (LTS) brought home by a nail in the eve of Sunday's big finish in London. The Movistar Team had a prominent presence during stage seven, as Alex Dowsett was caught with only 15km to go following a three-man breakaway with Briggs (JLT) and Cullaigh (GBR). Juanjo Lobato took 12th into the mass sprint, while Rubén Fernández, one position behind, is now sixth overall after Dylan Teuns (BMC) crashed out in the finale.