Tour de France (st. 5)
Telephone squad works in full strength, makes things harder for GC contenders to offer spectacle in first 'Grande Boucle' mountain stage this year. Valverde remains 3rd overall after leading Nairo Quintana out in finale; Colombian keeps his 7th in GC
Movistar Team shifted their own expectations with a great display in the first mountain day leading up to the #SueñoAmarillo. The 216km stage five of the Tour de France -a route between Limousin and Auvergne, across the scorching Massif Central, from Limoges to the Le Lioran ski resort- were a proof that the Eusebio Unzué-led squad has much to bring forward in the three weeks of the 'Grande Boucle'.
Entirely focused on the fight for overall success -the stage win, and the provisional yellow jersey, went to Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)-, the Blues took command into the flat prior to the Col de Néronne (Cat-3), with Imanol Erviti reducing the 15-minute gap ammassed by the day's early breakaway, before Nelson Oliveira and Winner Anacona set a furious pace at the front as the first real climb of the day loomed. They saw their effort continued by Jesús Herrada and Ion Izagirre, the latter keeping the pace high into the first slopes of the Puy Mary (Cat-2). Finally, Dani Moreno picked up the rhythm into a very selected group, containing just thirty riders.
As the Spaniard kept pulling into the Col du Perthus (Cat-2) and several big names left behind -Nibali (AST), Landa (SKY), Costa (LAM), Zakarin (KAT) and Navarro (COF) were just five of them-, an attack by Romain Bardet (ALM) into the Font de Cère (Cat-3) found only immediate reaction from Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), with Contador (TNK) getting dropped and losing 35" across the line. The bunch, briefly pulled by a great 'Bala' for Nairo, came together to the finish, which keeps the Murcia-born rider in 3rd overall while Nairo sits in 7th. Sprinters will be back on Thursday with stage six covering 190km from Arpajon-sur-Cère to Montauban.
Nairo Quintana (audio): "It was a difficult day – mountains have been quite different to what's normal in a Tour de France, with little, steep, grueling climbs. They were more similar to the other GTs. The team worked really well; we always kept a pace that was within my needs and both Dani, Alejandro and myself came into the front group, which was more than enough and the only thing that really matter today after all."
Alejandro Valverde (audio): "Our team-mates were phenomenal; we all worked well. You must do something if you want to gain something; you've got to make such efforts to win time, and things got pretty demanding for a first mountain stage in a GT today. We weren't really worried about Contador or any other specific rival; we all struggled at some point of the race, which was our intention – we wanted to make the race fast to check on our own feelings and the rivals'. We saw pretty much everyone doing well, which is normal when you're on the fifth day of racing, but I'm sure this will pay off in the remainder of the race. We're satisfied with today's performance."