Froome (SKY) takes 12" at Montpellier's finish after crazy crosswinds on stage eleven; Nairo Quintana remains 4th overall, 35" back, as Alejandro Valverde jumps into 8th. No Mont Ventoux on Thursday: race only up to Chalet Reynard
It was the most dangerous and nervous day so far in the 2016 Tour de France… and Nairo Quintana got through it way better than he did on the fateful stage two of 2015. Only twelve seconds were conceded by the Colombian from the Movistar Team -him and all GC contenders- against Chris Froome (SKY) at Montpellier’s finish, following a stage eleven (163km starting at Carcassonne) full of direction changes, narrow roads, splits and crashes -one affected Winner Anacona; just a blow to his right leg- due to sidewinds.
The telephone squad, which kept Quintana well covered until the final 15km with Oliveira, Erviti, the Izagirre brothers, Anacona, Moreno or even Alejandro Valverde, struggled due to the lack of feeding and the constant, hard pacing -just like with all big guns- as a four-man group full of horsepower formed into late crosswinds with Peter Sagan, Maciej Bodnar (both TNK), race leader Froome and team-mate Geraint Thomas (SKY). Their move reached even half a minute over the bunch, a margin reduced to just 6" into the final sprint, 12" combined with the bonus with Froome obtained as second over the line, behind Sagan.
The gap, more important on the morale side than on a sporting view, leaves Nairo Quintana at 35” behind the yellow jersey (4th), in a day when Alejandro Valverde gained two places back to jump into eighth, 1'13" down. The wind didn’t only create chaos today, but also forced the organisers to shorten Thursday’s finish in the Mont Ventoux: race will finish at the Chalet-Reynard, after 10km uphill following a 178km with only two more rated climbs before the reduced ‘Giant of Provence.’
Nairo Quintana: “We got safely through probably the hardest day so far for me in this Tour. It was a flat route of course, where even sprint and classics specialists suffered and lost an opportunity to fight for the stage win, and we all spent lots of energy, even Froome -he knew how to take chances fruitfully again today-, but, however, I can’t help but think we were only lucky today not to see much crashes, and that because the race organisers often don’t think about the rider. They go for different styles of spectacle, but they don’t care about the danger we face on some stages. We were risking our lives all the time – stages like this should be had another thought before going through. Let’s see what happens tomorrow – it’s sad we won’t be able to get over the Ventoux: it’s a beautiful climb, one that really suits my characteristics, one very different to today. There’s nothing decided yet, though: the GC keeps being sorted but there’s still a lot remaining, with plenty of mountains and the two time trials.”
Gaviria wins stage two in Poland, Rubén and Blues remain safe
Far from the gusty winds hitting the Movistar Team in France, stage two of the Tour de Pologne (153km between Tarnowskie Góry and Katowice) had the Jaimerena / Laguía-led team riding under perfect conditions -24 degrees, no sight of crosswinds- which made for calm racing until the final bunch kick. It wasn't until 60km in when the five-man breakaway was made – Kozhatayev (AST), Aregger (IAM), Kock (VAT), Owsian (CCC) and Detko (PL)-, the Movistar Team well covered behind by Sutherland and Ventoso to avoid any problems.
The organising team led by Czeslaw Lang brought another beautiful urban course in Katowice for today's finale, next to rivers Klodnica and Rawa, where the escapees were neutralized with 20km to go before the usual charge started for the sprinters -only Marcel Aregger (IAM) tried to avoid it- and the leadout riders like Alex Dowsett, always keeping the Blues safe. The day's win went to Colombian Fernando Gaviria (EQS) -just over Elia Viviani (SKY)-, which granted him the yellow jersey from the shoulders of team-mate Davide Martinelli. Thursday will see racing stay in southern turf with a very long one: 240km between and Nowy Sącz with a handful of little climbs in the second part of the race.