Set for double podium finish
Ion Izagirre takes 2nd in Villars-sur-Ollon, climbs onto GC podium on Swiss soil; Nairo Quintana (5th) retains yellow in the eve of Ginebra's finale, after fantastic support from Movistar Team -including a stellar Amador and Gorka Izagirre-
The 70th Tour de Romandie will be painted Movistar Team blue on Sunday in Geneva after the riders directed by Arrieta and Laguía made a sensational performance in the 173km Queen stage on Saturday, starting under blue skies in Conthey but worsening to freezing cold, rainy conditions in the final loop around Villars-sur-Ollon. The two climbs of Barboleusaz (Cat-1) offered an intriguing scenario which forced the telephone squad to put all their energy at stake to Keep Nairo Quintana's yellow jersey. And they accomplished their mission in style.
The most dangerous attack came from Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who anticipated the late moves by the GC favourites by jumping off the front with eventual stage winner Chris Froome (SKY) through the first ascent. Despite their gap growing to a worrying 55 seconds over the peloton -the Blues always controlling a field never bigger than 30 units-, sensational efforts from Andrey Amador and Gorka Izagirre into the climb, the subsequent downhil and the flat between the ascents kept the race under control, Van Garderen sitting at 1'22" from Nairo overall. Lots of attempts from Spilak (KAT) and Pinot (FDJ) -not a single one from Zakarin (KAT), 3rd overall- didn't still avoid the top guns reaching the line together, with Ion Izagirre claiming the second place and a six-second bonus that leads the Ormaiztegi-born rider into 3rd in the GC.
Nairo Quintana, who also responded himself to some of the moves and crossed the finish in 5th spot, didn't lose his temper and is now 172 kilometers away from closing his early 2016 season in style, following Catalunya's win and third places in San Luis and País Vasco. A huge success -he's holding the lead in both GC and KOM standings- that, thanks to Ion's work -leading the Points competition- and his team-mates', will have an even better taste.
Ion Izagirre: "This week will be hard to beat; it's been a fantastic race for us. It started off in the best of possible ways when I won the prologue; logically, this gives you morale, and also boosts the whole team's confidence and helps them give their very best. The squad was brilliant all week, controlling the pace, pulling when some dangerous attacks occurred – they worked their hearts out so Nairo and I could focus on seeking for success. Nairo's win in Morgins changed our plans but actually kept us doing the same – it was great to see him so strong. This second place today got me back into the podium; after such a demanding race, seeing that, with all those big riders in the field, you're third and Nairo is on top – feelings couldn't be better. Let's hope we can keep all we've got at the end of tomorrow."
Nairo Quintana: "We took a really important step forward today. We had a superb team to control today's stage and we succeeded in getting Ion Izagirre into the overall podium, something really important for himself and the whole squad. We've also kept all three jerseys, the teams' classification is almost decided… The day was fantastic for us, and we hope to crown it tomorrow without any troubles. Feeling a winner already today? Not at all – I feel like the race leader, a solid one, but this is not over yet. Nothing is won until we cross the last finish line on Sunday."