Tour de San Luis / Tour Down Under (st. 1)
Movistar Team takes 2nd at Tour de San Luis opening TTT, makes a gap over many of the pre-race GC favourites. Rojas 9th in first TDU sprint
The start of the 10th Tour de San Luis saw the Movistar Team taking their collective strength to excellent limits and coming close to their maiden 2016 win against stronger rivals. The squad directed by José Luis Jaimerena finished in 2nd place after the 21km team time trial in and around El Durazno, leaving Nairo Quintana in an excellent position to fight for overall glory in a race where the mountains will take over on Wednesday.
Much cohesive despite physiological differences between their six members, the Blues -Nairo, Dani Moreno, Adriano Malori, Dayer Quintana, Marc Soler and Fran Ventoso, the latter dropped before the finish- kept margins close against big favourites Etixx. The Belgian squad dominated the intermediate standings, putting 7" over the Movistar Team after 10km, and set local rider Max Richeze in the lead with eight seconds over the 'green M' (23'53", to 24'01"), which left Astana behind by 9”, Tinkoff at 15” and AG2R / Delko almost 50” apart.
The Tour de San Luis will tackle its longest stage on Tuesday -182km between the region's capital and Villa Mercedes-, a sprint surely to loom under hot conditions in Argentina. Hard slopes will have to wait an additional 24 hours, with the Mirador del Potrero 11km away from La Punta's finish on day three.
Nairo Quintana: “It was a good start. We couldn't win, yet it was a fine result that we're satisfied about. Now we've made sure that our work during the winter paid off – we're in a good position for what's to come. It was a TT difficult to manage, demanding and with really hot conditions; we'll surely suffer because of the weather during the week, and even more as the mountains come.
"We put some gap on our rivals, and that will keep us calm for the upcoming stages. I even hoped for the victory -I wouldn't have minded to work to keep the jersey if it came-, but Etixx had better rouleurs, while we were lucky to have Malori by our side with his great TT conditions. It's good to be in such position; El Amago and Filo Sierras will be stages better suited to me."
Adriano Malori (via Tuttobici): "We finished really close to Etixx and that's not a bad result at all. Last year it was me who finished ahead of Kwiatkowski and this time it was their turn to take the win – that's cycling. I'm personally satisfied with this result; a good start for myself, for Nairo and the whole team. We're in a great position overall and we'll fight to keep it the whole week."
Fran Ventoso: "A nice way to get the legs rolling for a first day of racing. Adriano was really strong today, like a motorbike, just as usual. Halfway through one of the slopes on the course, when he was pushing on full steam, Nairo took over with a strong pace – he apparently was doing well, too. Then, I saw it was too much for me – I had really given all I had and it was enough for me to reach the finish. We raced well together and it's awful to have lost it by those eight seconds, yet it's a good start. Good things should come during this week."
Tour Down Under: Rojas 9th in first 'sprinters' festival'
In turn, at the other side of the Pacific, the Movistar Team debuted seemingly without any troubles in the 18th Tour Down Under, where Caleb Ewan (OGE) has kept showing he's the man of the moment with a second win -and a subsequent ochre jersey- in as many contests this week, after a convincing display in the end of the 130km route from Prospect to Lyndoch.
José Joaquín Rojas finished 9th in an inevitable sprint -only Keizer (TLJ), Gougeard (ALM) and most notably Lake (UNA) dared to defy the bunch-, while Rubén Fernández and his team-mates kept themselves safe and on the front of the field in a hot, windy day, prelude of Wednesday's difficulties on stage two.
As well Rojas as Juanjo Lobato seem like good candidates for the stage honours from José Luis Arrieta's squad tomorrow, as Stirling's finish is again located on a slight uphill where the Andalusian triumphed in 2015. 132km are on the day's programme, starting, like that day, in the town of Unley.