Vuelta a España (st. 20)
Nairo Quintana sits now just 24 hours away from winning his maiden Vuelta a España: proves to be strongest in the race at Aitana climb, rides supported by impressive Movistar Team despite hard crash for José Joaquín Rojas, out of the race with broken tibia and fibula. Madrid to receive all riders in grand finale tomorrow
Nairo Quintana and the Movistar Team can now smile and enjoy together. The Colombian and the whole squad directed by José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta defended themselves flawlessly into the last great battle of the Vuelta a España – 193km between Benidorm and the HC climb of Aitana, with three other rated ascents and plenty of non-categorized climbs along the route – to travel tomorrow to Madrid for their march of glory. After an agonic race with many challenging attacks, the telephone squad revealed as the strongest over the course – even if they had to do so without one of their most coveted domestiques: José Joaquín Rojas.
The Spanish road race champion crashed about 95km in, into the descent of the Alto de Tollos. Rubbing the guardrail and falling to the kerb, the man from Murcia seriously injured his left leg. Rojas was moved – always conscious, stable and calm, yet in huge pain – to the Hospital Virgen de los Lirios in Alcoy. Later this evening, Rojas had his wounds surgically cured and underwent checkups that confirmed an open tibia and fibula fracture, which will keep him admitted to the medical center tonight. More details on his transfer to Murcia and further surgery will be evaluated accordingly.
With Rojas still in the race, the Blues had successfully defended themselves from a very difficult start, the opening 70km not bringing a stable break -Rojas was part of the decisive move, which Pierre Latour (ALM) took advantage from to win the stage- and including even an attack by Froome at the descent of the Rates (Cat-2), searching for a gap against Nairo. The Movistar Team quickly responded with the Colombian, as well as four team-mates, to nullify his attempt. Later on, Erviti and Sutherland, controlling the pace, and Herrada, Castroviejo and Fernández, on the approach towards Aitana, completed an excellent labout crowned by Alejandro Valverde himself, who led Nairo out into the steepest part of the ascent. There, with 5km to go, Froome jumped off the front.
The Briton’s accelerations always found proper response from Nairo, all the way to the finish line. Ahead of the two, Esteban Chaves (OBE), author of a brilliant move into the climb of Tudons (Cat-2), secured his third place in the Madrid podium alongside the protagonists of the biggest duel in this Vuelta. In turn, Dani Moreno confirmed a fine eighth spot overall, with ‘Bala’ coming just 1’50” short to a top-ten finish in yet another remarkable Vuelta for him.
Nairo Quintana: “Obviously, I was going quite strong into that final climb, but it wasn’t easy for me only because it looked so on TV when I was alongside Froome. It was easy because my team made things easy for me all day. They brought me into Aitana fully safe and confident, defended me from all attacks from all teams, especiall Sky in the beginning of the stage – they were all phenomenal, from first to last, a marvellous Vuelta from the whole group which I can’t thank them enough for. This is a tribute to them, and also to José Joaquín Rojas. We want him to recover to 100% and get on his bike again as quickly as possible.
“Froome started attacking from very early into the stage, as he already did on the downhill of the Coll de Rates. However, we always kept full focus, and at that final climb I did not find any troubles to defend myself from all his moves. He’s a strong contender, rode an impressive TT yesterday, made me struggle – he’s my biggest rival, and I thank him for making my victory more valuable.”