Great TT keeps Nairo Quintana (6th in the day) in Tour de Romandie lead, with day's winner Pinot (FDJ) and Zakarin (KAT) -now third overall- at 23" and 26" respectively. Ion Izagirre remains in contention: 8th today, fourth in the GC at 29"
Gone are the times when humble Colombians were left out of any fight overall when a TT was on the race schedule. At least, when it comes to Nairo Quintana. Stage three of the Tour de Romandie -a lumpy 15km course in and around Sion- brought an excellent Nairo Quintana in full contention with all his rivals, big or light. Ion Izagirre didn't disappoint either, the Basque offering a display quite similar to Tuesday's win in the prologue for a notably 8th place in the day, now sitting 4th overall at just 29" from his team-mate.
The route suited the Blues' two main references, with a gentle, opening 5km followed by a sharp 4-kilometer climb through the Route de Savièse, before a U-turn and a quick descent took the riders back into Sion. At the intermediate check, Nairo Quintana improved Ilnur Zakarin's (KAT) time by 5”, a gap against his biggest rival from yesterday he increased to 8" in the finale, managing perfectly through the tricky street furniture. Ahead of the two finished Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), who bested big specialist Tom Dumoulin (TGA) by 2" and put nine on Nairo, who now finds the Frenchman just after him in the standings, but 23" in arrears.
All in all, another day gone for the telephone squad with a good result, in the eve of the Swiss stagerace's showdown on Saturday: 173km towards a double loop around Villars-sur-Ollon, which includes two climbs of the Barboleusaz (Cat-1) just 4km away from the finish zone.
Nairo Quintana: "I'm really happy. I think we did a pretty good defense of this jersey and I hope we can continue to do so tomorrow. It was a beautiful time trial for me – this performance really makes me confident for what's to come in a few months, when our biggest goal looms. This test in Romandie will be surely helpful for July. We've got to keep in mind that today's TT was a particular one, with plenty of difficult climbing, but we remain satisfied about what I did on the road today.
"Pinot? His result didn't surprise me. He's been doing such good TTs for the last two years – I had him written down as my biggest rival today, and I knew I had to go full-gas so he didn't mean a threat to my GC leadership. Plus, he's got a really nice team, with lots of good climbers, and they might become the team to follow tomorrow – dangerous for my chances. We'll keep all attention to attacks from them, as well as Zakarin and his team; both will probably give it a try. My team is feeling well and all of them – Ion, too – will be giving their best so we can keep the jersey."