Movistar Team claims second Grand Tour victory for Telefónica
Nairo Quintana wins 2016 Vuelta a España in Madrid after brilliant display through three weeks of sacrifice, talent and courage from immense Movistar Team. The Colombian's success marks the 14th GT win for Eusebio Unzué's squad, now leading both individual and team WorldTour rankings. Blues now sit only two behind all-time victory high (34)
The 70th edition of the Vuelta a España ended on the highest possible note for the Movistar Team. Seven years after Alejandro Valverde worn the last 'jersey oro' in the race, Nairo Quintana claimed red following a perfect race, in all instances, by the Eusebio Unzué-managed squad.
Following a close call -2nd, by only 0"28- in Ourense's opening team time trial and a brief spell in the lad by an impressive Rubén Fernández in Ézaro, Nairo stroke twice almost consecutively, at La Camperona and the Lagos de Covadonga -the Blues' sole stage win in the race-, to which he subsequently added the big time gain at a huge stage 15 towards Formigal. Friday's 'scare' against a sensational Chris Froome in the Calpe ITT was happily forgotten a day later, thanks to yesterday's solidness by the whole group in the Aitana showdown.
Quintana joins a very restricted ciub of riders -17, after the Colombian took his win today- with podiums in all three Grand Tours, adding a second victory to the 2014 Giro that makes him become the only Colombian to have won more than one three-week stagerace. His success, the fourth in the Spanish grandtour for Unzué's squads -'Perico', 1989; Olano, 1998-, is also the 14th GT victory for a structure that today hits 850 wins since 1980, and takes over the lead in both the 2016 individual (Nairo) and team WorldTour rankings. The Blues also remain two wins short (34, vs. 36) to a new record in a single season -dated back to 1998-. They will still have a whole month after the end of this Vuelta to reach, or improve, that figure.
This Vuelta's exploits would have been impossible to carry out without a thirty-man group that includes sports directors (José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta), different staff members and eight devoted, superb domestiques. Valverde, a torrent of experience and commitment, less than two minutes short to achieve top-ten finishes in all 2016 GTs; Dani Moreno, 8th overall, always consistent; Erviti and Sutherland, two sensational rouleurs; José Herrada, wonderful allrounder; Fernández and Castroviejo, crucial at key points of the race; and José Joaquín Rojas, whose awful crash yesterday prevented him from enjoying the last parade through Madrid with his team-mates. The whole squad kept the Spanish road race champion in their minds as they reached this marvelous success.
NAIRO QUINTANA'S OVERVIEW:
“Yesterday, when I crossed the finish line in Aitana, I finally could feel pure joy and calmness. We had got through a big day, a difficult one, where we could have lost it all. It didn't happen – thanks to the big team that supported me. They helped me out from the very beginning, and all the way through these three weeks. Riders, sports directores, mechanics, carers… the whole group took care of me and remained there for everything I needed. They really deserve this win, they deserve to enjoy this.
"I came into this Vuelta with a grudge after not being able to really contest the win in the Tour – yet very calm. The training rides I went on prior to the race showed that my fitness level was good, the data was telling me I could aspire to get a good result, and the team offered me their confidence from the start of the race. It kicked off with a great team time trial, where we lost by barely a fraction of a second, and from the very first week, my team-mates always kept me at the front and fought every single day so I didn't lose terrain on stages that didn't favour me. That was one of the keys to me winning this Vuelta.
"At La Camperona, when I took those meters in front of my main rivals, I saw that I was really going strong – then I pledged to dig deep and really go for the GC win. I transferred that confidence to my team, I wanted to let them know I could fight for victory and I needed their support, which I always got. And after Covadonga, and the first leader's jersey, came Formigal, the place where we re-confirmed our condition and intentions. There, the huge job by my team-mates was most visible, fundamental to reach that time advantage that could let me enter the Calpe TT not so stressed and remain in red before Aitana.
"This Vuelta win means a whole lot to me. At the Tour, I reached the podium more out of class rather than legs. I didn't feel well in France, yet I found my best condition here. Also, it was a race with almost all all big GC names in the peloton present: a huge Chris Froome; Alberto Contador, who is one you must always keep an eye on; Chaves and Orica… Winning the race this way, and against them, makes it even more valuable."