Vuelta a España (st. 9)
Movistar Team distributes their energies with wisdom, avoids any time gaps into Alto del Naranco as De la Cruz (EQS) takes GC with 22” over Nairo Quintana (2nd), 41” to Alejandro Valverde (3rd)
The weight of carrying the leader's jersey at a three-week stagerace often takes its toll at all levels, and today, the Movistar Team used intelligence to keep all their chances alive in the Vuelta a España while releasing pressure before a crucial day atop the Lagos de Covadonga. Nairo Quintana concede his red jersey by just twenty-two seconds against David de la Cruz (EQS), after a long break which the Catalan climber crowned at the Alto del Naranco against Belgian Dries Devenyns (IAM).
Imanol Erviti and Rory Sutherland offered a masterclass on how to manage the tempo in a race. For more than 80km -from the foot of the Puerto de San Isidro (Cat-2) and all the way down to the not-rated Alto del Padrún-, the Spaniard and the Aussie kept at exactly 4’30” a group of twelve riders -a powerful escape, including Luis León Sánchez (AST), Thomas De Gendt (LTS), Mathias Frank (IAM) or Jan Bakelants (ALM)- which included the day's victor. Into the last three ascents, Herrada, Castroviejo and Rojas consecutively took charge of the pace. At the Naranco, Rubén Fernández and Dani Moreno led out, sprinters' style, their leaders Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, making sure they finished within reasonable distance from De La Cruz (+2'56"), with ‘Bala’ at the front of the GC field.
The well-timed efforts from the telephone squad leaves Quintana in 2nd place, at 22", with Valverde 3rd at 41”, both in perfect position before tomorrow's Los Lagos (HC). Stage 10 will be longer than today's (188.7km), and will include a tougher previous climb to the finish, the Mirador del Fito (Cat-1), with slopes steeper than today's continuum of hills in the beautiful Oviedo outskirts.
Nairo Quintana: "By conceding this red jersey we're giving a turn to others – we're not worried at all. We remain strong, with confidence and a great group around us. It's a lead change in the race that favours us and we must continue doing things right, starting with tomorrow's important finish up the Lagos."
Alejandro Valverde: "It's a perfect situation for us – conceding the leader's jersey by such a short time gap is just what we wanted. Tomorrow's stage will be a tough one; everyone looks tired after almost half the race at big pace, with difficult stages, so we will have to race calm. We spent quite some energy today, but who doesn't do that on a week like this. Contador? I see him doing well – just like all of the other main rivals."
Rubén Fernández: "There are many days left still; keeping the jersey would have been a difficult situation. We had a big break, with powerful riders, going away; we couldn't take so much energy out even if we kept the front for the whole day, we had to remain calm while working, because Lagos will be demanding. Let's see when we can take the jersey again. We would have liked to be in the lead until Madrid, but this Vuelta is still long – no reason to think about not taking it back."