Vuelta al País Vasco (final stage)
Colombian from Movistar Team – sick and left without two team-mates even before the start of País Vasco – rallies three positions to finish 2nd in Eibar TT, claim his third top-3 finish in as many stageraces over his 2016 season
With courage, without any fear not anything to lose, Nairo Quintana and the Movistar Team grabbed another prestigious podium into a WorldTour stagerace this 2016 season. The Colombian climber jumped from sixth to third overall in the Vuelta al País Vasco, following a sensational performance in the TT showdown around Eibar (16.5km), a race covered under infamous weather conditions, including two tough climbs -Usartza, through roads opposite to the race's traditional finish in Arrate, plus a difficult urban slope with 3km from the end- plus a fast, tricky descent where the telephone squad's leader took all risks he reasonably could.
The early time gaps over Arrate already made clear Quintana was on road to the podium – putting almost one minute on all Rodríguez (KAT), Sánchez (BMC) and Pinot (FDJ), the three man he contested his podium place with – as he rode 23" behind Contador (TNK). However, a great descent by the 26-year-old from Boyacá and tactical bravery, by switching his road bike to a Canyon Speedmax TT machine, in order to keep improving over the final 3km flat, allowed him to finish only 5" behind the day's winner, joining Contador and fellow Colombian Sergio Henao (SKY) on the race podium. Quite an exploit, after the virus Nairo suffered following his brilliant Volta a Catalunya victory and following the DNS by team-mates Gorka and Ion Izagirre, while in amazing form.
Nairo Quintana: "It's a nice finish for us in this race – clearly a progression from where we were at on Monday. Before the start I was still feeling not quite well, due to the virus which affected most within the team, and also missing two valuable team-mates in the Izagirre brothers. That really changed our way to tackle the race and look for our chances. Seeing we're now on the overall podium on Saturday, knowing that I recovered way faster than we all expected, is a great feeling, a boost in our morale before the big, upcoming goals.
"We did quite a good time trial, though we're obviously a bit sad since we couldn't win it. We took a strong gamble with that bike chance, hoping we could ride faster into the final stretch, and even though it helped, it wasn't enough for the win. It's still worth as we couldn't leave this race without trying something different, and this test will be useful for the future. We didn't win the race, Alberto was stronger this time, but we were close and we're happy about that."