Vuelta a España (st. 19)
Nairo Quintana completes fine TT in Calpe for 11th in Vuelta stage 19, yet loses 2’16” against exceptional Chris Froome (SKY), who beat Jonathan Castroviejo for the stage and now sits 1’21” behind Nairo before Aitana’s showdown
Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) fulfilled the expectations on his own body for the trascendental TT in the 2016 Vuelta a España -37km between Jávea and Calpe-, yet ended his day trailing more than planned against a superb Chris Froome (SKY). The Briton took the day’s win by putting more than forty seconds on Jonathan Castroviejo, the Spansh specialist from the Movistar Team seemingly safe on top until his exhibition, and reduced in 2’16” what still is a relatively comfortable gap for Nairo, 1’21” ahead overall before Sunday’s Aitana showdown (197km).
Winds became the main actor in today’s effort, as their picking-up way above the forecasts made Nairo starting to lose time faster than expected into the first intermediate check (12km), 46” behind Froome, and keeping that tendency through the second (24km), where Froome proved to be on a league of his own by putting 1’32” on Quintana. Nairo didn’t risk, though, on the technical finale and will focus on protecting himself on Saturday alongside a strong block. All Valverde -still leader of the Points classification, yet with only 2pt over Nairo, 6 to Froome,10 to Fabio Felline (TFS)-, Moreno -jumping three places up, now 8th overall- and the entire roster directed by Chente and Arrieta will give everything to secure Quintana’s first win in the Spanish grandtour.
Nairo Quintana: “I did a good time trial, but Chris Froome really flew over today’s course. He set the bar quite higher than we expected. My ‘data’ over the parcours wasn’t bad at all, more on the contrary: I did what I felt I needed to complete a good TT. Wind picked up and blew stronger than initially planned, yet I chose well my gearing for the race and my legs were strong. And that’s the most important thing: keeping that juice flowing and feeling good for tomorrow, which will be a very serious stages. We’ve got quite a gap, and we must take advantage of it and defend ourselves well. Surely I lost more than I hoped, but before the race, I thought I’d need to take more than three minutes before the TT to defend and eventual leader’s jersey, and we fulfilled our task today.
We’ve got a strong team for tomorrow, one with people still feeling fresh. It will be a stage where we mustn’t lose focus, as there will be lots of attacks from the start. People won’t keep their minds cold, and many will want to gain some. Orica have lost their podium spot and will try to recover; Contador will fight to keep his place; Chris will attack; and I have to defend myself. I just have to cover Chris’ moves, wait for the finale and follow him towards the end of this last battle.”
Jonathan Castroviejo: “Today’s goal was winning the stage, and sadly we didn’t fulfil it. It was a difficult course, with lots of pace changes, sections where you couldn’t pedal and profit it you were strong… I didn’t like it really much, but I managed through it well. I had to cope with strong headwinds; probably the early starters didn’t face it, but that’s not an excuse as I was above them. I gave everything and only a fantastic rival like Froome could beat my time. Into a Grand Tour, you go through good and bad moments – I can’t really say this was one bad thing to remember, I felt like I left all on the road. Tomorrow? Surely many teams will ride against us and try to take advantage to improve their GC results; we have to give everything one last time to keep Nairo safe.”
Alejandro Valverde: “I was inside the podium, watching Nair’s time trial, full of nerves. We knew that Froome would do well, yet his TT was fantastic. We’re still keeping 1’21” against Chris and, while tomorrow’s one will be tight, I think we shouldn’t have any problems. Till the very last finish line is covered, we must keep pushing. It will be a beautiful stage for the fans, not really much so for those inside the race (laughs).”