Tour de San Luis / Tour Down Under (st. 4)
Big ride by Sepúlveda (FVC) leaves younger of Quintana saga just 3" behind the lead in El Amago after fine 4th in first big mountain finish. Nairo Quintana takes 8th, remains in fourth overall; Moreno keeps 6th spot to strengthen Movistar's teams classification lead
Barely a couple of breaths, three seconds, was the difference which avoided Dayer Quintana taking the lead in a stagerace for the first time since he became a pro in 2014, the Cómbita-born rider having opened his victory account 18 months ago at the Queen stage of the Tour of Austria. The Colombian from the Movistar Team showed to have real courage at the Cerro El Amago climb, end of the fourth stage in the Tour de San Luis, where Eduardo Sepúlveda (FVC) completed a sensational performance by putting 1'31" on the 'Boyacense', despite the younger of the Quintanas having attacked just after the foot of the ascent -looking forward to help his sibling-.
Well protected until the final 11km of uphill by Ventoso, Malori, Soler or even Dani Moreno, who later sacrificed himself in the pursuit to help Nairo out, Dayer was initially chased down and dropped by Janier Acevedo (JAM), who finished in 2nd place, and later on, after Sepúlveda, by Román Villalobos from Costa Rica, the duo completing the final part of the climb together. Dayer finished in 4th place, missing out on what ultimately became precious bonus seconds.
Behind, vigilance between race contenders made Nairo unable to progress further, the 2014 Giro d'Italia champion in 8th over the line at 2'10". The older of the Colombian saga is now fourth overall, with Sepúlveda, Contreras (EQS, 3rd), López (AST, 5th) and three from the Movistar Team -Dayer, 2nd; Nairo, 42" down; and Dani Moreno, 6th at 56"- only a minute apart.
Saturday's climb towards the Filo Sierras Comechingones, the highest point in the region, now becomes breathtaking as a GC showdown. Climbers will have, though, a day to recover as stage five on Friday looks forward to a mass sprint after 169km from Renca to Juana Koslay. The Movistar Team, directed here by José Luis Jaimerena, does have one lead in his pocket at this point: the teams' classification, by almost six minutes of advantage.
Dayer Quintana: "On the one hand, I'm really happy. On a personal view, because I'm feeling myself strong against such talented, experienced riders right at the start of the season, and team-wise, because we're still up for contention with many riders without offering our full potential. On the other hand, it's true there's sort of a bitter taste as we couldn't take the race lead.
"The Cerro El Amago was extremely demanding, but we could perform well. Our tactics where me attacking and, later on, waiting for another move from Nairo and helping him out as much as I could. We tried the first part, but seeing hoy many riders were on Nairo's wheel, not letting him go, he told me to carry on.
"I think I've taken a step forward on my physical progression, and this result will surely bring me confidence. Saturday? We must take that stage as seriously as today's and search for a good strategy. After reaching this second place, I'll be as focused as ever to improve it."
Nairo Quintana: “The goal was effectively it: bridging back to Dayer and going with everything until the finish. I'd have been delighted to see him winning, but things doesn't turn out the way you want them to do at times. It'd have been great for him to win, because his work deserves some sort of success – I really hope it'll come. At the FIlo Sierras, we'll know who takes the title home. We'll try something similar to today, hoping we're more fortunate."
Tour Down Under: Rojas 12th at Victor Harbor; Herrada on the attack
Over at Australia, stress dominated the scene for many of the 138km on stage four of the Tour Down Under, from Norwood to Victor Harbor and through the final section uphill of Port Elliot. Coastal winds and some sprinkles late into the race caused numerous splits into the bunch, which the Movistar Team tried to take advantage from with a polyvalent group, with four of the Arrieta-directed roster -Rubén Fernández, Jesús Herrada, José Joaquín Rojas and Juanjo Lobato- into a final selection of 40 men, later joined by Sütterlin and Oliveira.
Despite Herrada looking for chaos into the bunch with a move at the 15km-to-go mark, a selected field's sprint saw race leader Simon Gerrans (OGE) taking back-to-back stage victories, with Rojas and Lobato behind in 12th and 14th places respectively. Fernández will start stage five in 6th place overall, 28" away from the ochre jersey and just 2" from the podium -Dennis (BMC) sitting in 3rd-, as the race showdown on Saturday includes the traditional two climbs of Old Willunga Hill (151.5km), after which he already finished in a brilliant 3rd back in 2015.