Movistar Team continues to protect Nairo Quintana well -Colombian remains 7th in TDF overall- as Alejandro Valverde conserves third spot in 'Grande Boucle' before Le Lioran's finish, Wednesday
The longest stage in the 2016 Tour de France -237.5km between Saumur and Limoges- was miles away from monotony suffered by most fans on day three of the race, as the furious pace into the final ups and downs through the Limousin hills left room for another breathtaking finish, with an even narrower margin than in the eve, between Marcel Kittel (EQS, 1st) and Bryan Coquard (DEN, 2nd).
Movistar Team worked as ordered as they did in previous stages, most notably with Erviti, Herrada and a huge Ion Izagirre into the uphill sections of the closing 20km. The Blues made it all of them safely as Alejandro Valverde -16th across the line- kept third place overall, with Nairo Quintana now in seventh.
Arrieta and Chente's lads will finally get into the mountains on Wednesday, the 'Grande Boucle' heading into another long route through the Massif Central on stage five (216km). The final hour of racing will include the cols of Nerome (Cat-3); Puy Mary (Cat-2; 5.4km at 8.1%); Perthus (Cat-2; 4.4km at 7.9%) and Font de Cère (Cat-3), the latter just next to the finish in Le Lioran. Perfect terrain to chase the 'maillot jaune'.
Alejandro Valverde: "It was a super fast stage, yet we got through the day in the best of possible ways. A complicated finale is forecast for tomorrow, when it comes to terrain; one might say it's dangerous, but I consider the stages we just left behind more problematic for me than Wednesday's. We're in perfect position at the moment, and it's logical to think we could get even closer to yellow tomorrow, even lead the race myself, but I make this clear yet another time today: we came here to support Nairo. Should the opportunity arise, we won't avoid it, but our sights are clear. All in all, it was another good day for us."
Nairo Quintana: "A very dangerous day for all of us, but we got to the finish safe and sound, just like we've done during this Tour so far. Let's hope our legs keep rolling just as well tomorrow for the team; tackling the mountains means we get into our 'bread and butter', that terrain that suits us best. It will still be a difficult race, but we're hopeful that we will do well. We've got a strong team and I'm felling myself strong."