Tour de France (finale)
Movistar Team closes its 2016 Tour de France with one stage win -Ion Izagirre's brilliant success in Morzine, Saturday- and their fourth team GC win after Nairo Quintana (3rd) takes third podium in as many appearances, yet again on the verge of the most coveted success
André Greipel (LTS) came victorious in Paris as the 103rd Tour de France took its curtains down this Sunday following a festive, final stage into the Champs-Elysées, where the riders had to push their final energies through the eight laps of the sport's most famous avenue. The Movistar Team, which came with the biggest aspirations into this year's 'Grande Boucle', couldn't complete its main goal -the yellow jersey-, yet they completed their efforts with generous rewards.
Nairo Quintana completed the race in third spot overall -his fourth Grand Tour podium finish, following his win in the 2014 Giro and runner-up places in the 2013 & 2015 Tours de France- as the Blues conquered a magnificent stage win with Ion Izagirre in Morzine yesterday (the 32nd victory for Eusebio Unzué's squad in 34 appearances) and took their second consecutive triumph in the team GC -fourth in their history after 2015, 1999 and 1991, the latter two as Banesto-. The telephone squad has also achieved a remarkable milestone as one or more riders from its team have finished within the top four overall for the tenth Grand Tour on a row (2013 Tour onwards). All of that, without leaving aside Alejandro Valverde's sixth-place finish following his Giro d'Italia GC podium.
“I head back home from this Tour full of happiness – it's a major feat for me to finish on the podium after all difficulties I had to go through in this race,” explained Quintana. “We rounded off our performance well, with big joy yesterday as our team-mate and friend Ion took that stage win. That was a success we had been chasing during the entire Tour. Regarding the team, I just can say 'thank you' – they helped me out so much. The team GC victory is a well-deserved reward for them: my team-mates fought and gave their best every single day to do what we had planned, and that visit to the podium is quite a prize for the whole group, including our staff."
“Our overview after the race can only be positive,” the Colombian insisted after completing his third Tour podium finish in the 'Grande Boucle' in as many appearances, aged just 26. “It's obvious that we came into this race with a much bigger and ambitious goal, but we've got many years ahead to keep trying. A podium in the Tour de France, the biggest race of them all, makes you feel really happy. This goes to all our fans, my family, dad and mom, who always pray for me so things go right for me. I also want to congratulate Froome: he's a big rival, the biggest one I have to face in my sporting career, and I'm sure that this rivalry will last for many years. Sometimes he wins, sometimes -as seen during this season- it's my turn to win."
Alejandro Valverde continued to improve what already was a fantastic season for him. “We're super happy with these results. We took third overall, we won the teams' classification, also one stage… these results are difficult to improve. A stage for me, you ask? It was hard. As I was still up there within the top GC guys, I was always on a leash; it already happened in Andorra on day nine. Making the breakaways was impossible for me. Maybe I had podium legs? To be honest, it doesn't matter at all. I was strong, and one with my quality clearly has to be ambitious, but to me it was clear what my role in this Tour was. We came here to support Nairo and he's on the podium -winning is always difficult, it'll be up for another year to claim it-. That support was the only thing that counted. The success we got in this Tour goes to those who couldn't enjoy this podium with us -Gorka, Jesús-; we just hope they get back to 100% as soon as possible. Right now, my legs are feeling tired, but there's still two weeks before the Rio Olympics' road race – I'm sure we will be well recovered by 6 August."
Eusebio Unzué shares entirely the views of his two main GC references: “I'm very satisfied. Ion's victory yesterday was the first wish, even though not the main, we took the start of the race with: claiming one of those stage wins and raise our arms in the Tour again after three years. Fortunately, Ion rode impeccably from the start of the stage, in the last chance for the team. That downhill of the Joux Plane, contesting the victory against two world-class descenders like him -Nibali & Pantano-, became a huge victory which rounds off a good race for us. Nairo's third place marks his third podium appearance in the race, which I consider already a massive fear. Also, there's the team GC – it's a ranking we hold dear, it's back-to-back victories in that classification for us, too. Surely we could have done things better, but seeing how the race developed, we must remain happy with this result."