Basque star conquers brilliant win at Tour de France's final mountain stage, under epic weather conditions; Nairo Quintana all but confirms 3rd place into Paris's podium on Sunday; Movistar leads team GC with one day to go
Things are not as they commence, rather than as they finish. After three long weeks of struggling and pressure, the Movistar Team will complete its 2016 Tour de France, still one stage remaining in the traditional Champs-Élysées in Paris, with one stage victory (Saturday’s grueling, 146.5km trek between Megève and Morzine) and a third place in the overall general classification. Ion Izagirre flew to success in Morzine, following an impressive descent of the Col de Joux Plane which saw him leave Vincenzo Nibali (AST) and Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) behind, and claimed his maiden stage win in the Tour de France under a deluge which added epic notes to the biggest achievement in the Basque allrounder’s pro career. A triumph which completes a magnificent 2016 for him, with GC podiums in Romandie and Suisse plus the Spanish time trial championships last month in Alicante.
It was a huge moment of joy for the team and one to make tribute to older brother Gorka, who had to leave the Grande Boucle just four days before the end due to a crash. In turn, Colombian Nairo Quintana all but secured his third spot overall, always pending the final march. Nairo will be joined by Romain Bardet (ALM), runner-up, and the winner of this Tour, Chris Froome (SKY), who conserved yellow from day eight in the race; the man from Boyacá will complete his third Paris podium appearance in as many finishes (2013, 2015, 2016), and becomes the second GC top-three finisher for the Movistar Team after Alejandro Valverde’s 3rd place in the Giro d’Italia.
The peloton will be transferred tomorrow to the outskirts of Paris for the final stage, a 113km route between Chantilly and the French capital for the traditional eight laps around the Champs. Barring any misfortune, the squad directed by Chente and Arrieta will be the winners of the team GC for the fourth time in their history, after 1991, 1999 (Banesto) and last year’s success.
Ion Izagirre: “It was an amazing day. A victory in the Tour de France, in the Alps, is something every cyclist could dream of. victoria en el Tour y en los Alpes es algo soñado. It was a difficult breakaway, with many talented riders, but our legs responded well, and we could crown it in the best of possible ways. It was clear to me that both Pantano and Nibali were good descenders, but when you’ve struggled so much through the stage you might lack that bit of self-conviction. That’s why it was clearly set on my mind, ever since the top of the Joux Plane climb, that I had to start the ‘real’ descent at the front to reach the finish solo with at least a few meters. I was focused on keeping the right line and all strength into that downhill, giving 100%; it all went well and we’re super happy about this win.
“At the finish, I could only think about all the efforts and suffering leading up to this victory – they all were truly worth. At the end, it was a good Tour de France for Movistar Team; we all came here with our sights set on the #SueñoAmarillo, but Froome proved to be stronger than the rest of the field. I think that completing this race with a stage win, the team GC and Nairo’s podium place in Paris are phenomenal results. This win goes to Gorka, the whole team, my girlfriend and my little baby, expected to be born in October.”