Tour de France (st. 17)
Gorka Izagirre becomes Movistar Team’s second withdrawal in Tour de France after crash 1km from start in Bern -no fractures-, concedes time with both Nairo Quintana -34” off GC podium- and Valverde, entirely committed to his leader
It was a down difficult to swallow for the Movistar Team for many reasons on stage 17 of the Tour de France (Bern – Finhaut/Emosson, 184.5km). The telephone squad lost their second rider in the race as a crash barely 1km into the stage took two of its members down: Gorka Izagirre and Imanol Erviti.
While Imanol was able to get back on his bike, a big blow forced Gorka to abandon and be examined at the mobile clinic of the ‘Grande Boucle’ next to the finish. No fractures were found at the explorations, with hits to his right-hand shoulder and elbow remaining just superficial damage.
Following good pulling work by Winner Anacona in the beginning of the Col de la Forclaz and Astana’s insistent pacing until halfway through the Emosson climb -no chance for the stage win, as a 14-man breakaway rode ten minutes ahead of the favourites and crowned Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin (KAT)-, Alejandro Valverde tried to remove some of Chris Froome’s helpers as he picked up the pace to anticipate a move by Nairo Quintana. This time, the Colombian lacked the legs to follow that pre-race intention.
Nairo couldn’t initially follow the attack by Richie Porte (BMC) and later ran out of any energies left in his tank by going after Froome. Caught and dropped back by the group including Aru (AST) and Adam Yates (OBE), Quintana crossed the line 27” behind the yellow jersey, and despite remaining 4th overall (+3’27”), his sights are not more reasonably set on the podium, 34” ahead of him. Alejandro Valverde, 7th now overall after sacrificing himself for his team leader, sits at 5’19” from Froome, and 1’52” behind his team-mate.
The Tour de France is tackling a difficult ITT on Thursday: 17km between Sallanches and Megève with the Côte de Domancy (2.5km at 9.4%), some difficult slopes after its summit and a final ascent towards Chozeaux (3.1km at 5.4%) before the roads descend into a short, fast, closing two kilometers to the line.
Nairo Quintana: “It wasn’t a great day for me. I expected to do better because my feelings were good, but my body did not react well into today’s final climbs. I did just as much as I could. Let’s hope I can recover to my best and react well to what’s left in this Tour, just as it happened in previous years when I fared better into the final days of racing. I feel well – it’s just a bad day. We must focus on recovering and bouncing back to my real status, the fitness I achieved for other races. Anything can happen until Paris. The #SueñoAmarillo? There are many years left for me. I’m 26. Many people ahead of me on the standings is quite more experienced. I’ve got time to keep fighting for it.”
Alejandro Valverde: “We gave it a try; I think there’s no one who can’t say we did. It’s become really difficult to achieve the win here, but we must keep fighting for the podium. Our plan with my acceleration was making it harder and harder, trying for Sky to have as few riders supporting Froome as possible, so a subsequent attack by Nairo would have to be responded by Froome himself. I pushed hard, with a couple of strong accelerations, and later set my own pace to try and lose as little time over the line as I could. Froome is much superior, you’ve got to admit it; we must remain focused, with good morale and battling until the end. Obviously, the Tour is not done until Paris on Friday; should we have a chance to take the podium with Nairo, it’d be a nice goal to keep our minds set on.”