Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 3) / Circuit de la Sarthe (day 2)
Giovanni & fast finishers get outshined by clever Cummings (DDD) in Lesaka -stage 3-; Nairo Quintana remains 8th in GC. Javi Moreno takes fine top-ten finish in La Sarthe ITT
The longest day in the 2016 Vuelta al País Vasco -193km between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Lesaka, through Movistar Team's very own Navarra region for most of stage three- did not give any break to the telephone squad, forced to be fully focused at the front for many different reasons.
Halfway through the course, a puncture for Nairo Quintana into the downhill of the Alto de Usategieta (Cat-3) made him take Jesús Herrada's bike for the next few kilometers and later follow the race convoy behind the bunch, with a bicycle whose measures only let him ride off the sadle and on the frame's top tube. The Colombian joined the field, back with his own Canyon, in company of Dani Moreno and Giovanni Visconti.
The Italian was the man in charge of bringing a good result for the Blues at the end, as neither Dani Navarro (COF) -a late attack by the Spaniard left the day's early escape behind- nor some of the GC contenders -Pinot (FDJ) made a brief attack into the La Piedad (Cat-2) climb- could avoid a field sprint that was ultimately ruined by Stephen Cummings (DDD), with a short, sharp attack with 1km to go. ‘Visco’ was 5th over the finish.
Quintana remains 8th in the GC and will surely have to react back again on Thursday as the Itzulia tackles the Alto de Aia. The Cat-2 climb will be passed three times during the 165km stage four, with its shortest, steepest, final ascent just 13km away from Orio's finish.
Giovanni Visconti: “Today's was a very demanding finish, with those three consecutive climbs and, above all, the difficult descents and all the stress to get in good position into the start of every ascent. Those efforts really make a difference. At the end, there were only two real sprinters -Felline and Gerrans-, and Arri asked me to give it a try. I dug deep, but with 1km to go, Cummings attacked – he's one guy who really delivers on such situations – and we all hesitated for a second, which was enough for him to ride away from any chase. It was quite a 'slow' sprint, one where I couldn't get really much past that 5th place. Still, it's a nice boost of morale heading into the upcoming races.
"I'm here in the Basque Country to help the team; that's my only real task. Having such a talented leader as Nairo makes it compulsory to keep him always at the front, avoid any troubles and cover any difficult moves for him. I think I'm doing my part well – I'm feeling quite strong at this point of the season, and I hope to continue this way. The next two days in the Itzulia will be harder, with longer, more demanding climbs; it will be a matter of getting through Thursday's Aia climbs with no time loss for Nairo and, hopefully, take some seconds back in the Arrate stage, the most important for us, and stay confident for a great TT with Nairo. I think we're still in time to turn things around in this race."
La Sarthe: Moreno 9th overall before Queen stage
In turn, the double sector in the Circuit de la Sarthe on Wednesday brought a bunch sprint in Angers -won by Bryan Coquard (DEN), as Juanjo Lobato run out of luck to position himself, finishing in 22nd place- and a narrow TT win in the evening for Anton Vorobyev (KAT). Javi Moreno, already very active yesterday in pursuit of the day's successful break, led the Blues into the 6.8km course for a fine 8th spot, 17" back. The Andalusian allrounder will have a nice chance tomorrow into the six climbs of Avaloirs, as Marc Fournier (FDJ) defends on the Queen stage his two-minute gap ammassed after the long attack on Tuesday.
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport / Luis Ángel Gómez