Quintana, Valverde attack in Challenge closer
Nairo launches surprise acceleration at final Mallorca climb to win KOM; gets joined by Valverde, who claims Most Active rider award after three-man break alongside Roelandts (LTS)
A day seemingly easy, almost sort of a training ride with a backnumber on, for the Movistar Team leaders on the final trophy of the Mallorca Challenge -162km of rolling terrain from Playa de Palma to the capital of the Balearic islands- became a playground where Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde amused the local fans.
The Colombian surprised the field with a solo attack on the flat, more than 50km from the finish, just before starting the climb towards the Coll Sa Creu (Cat-3). At the ascent, the 'Cóndor' ammassed a 1.30 gap against the field, which saw another big man jumping off the front just before the summit: Alejandro Valverde.
The two Blue leaders, joined by Lotto Soudal's Jurgen Roelandts, reached the final circuit together and rode for some kilometers ahead of the field, cheered by the Mallorca crowds. The bunch ultimately made sure they were caught and secured the group sprint at the finish, with Dan McLay (FVC) narrowly prevailing ahead of Pelucchi (BOH) and Bouhanni (COF).
Quintana and Valverde almost made the entire podium up, the Colombian claiming KOM and Special Sprints prizes while 'Bala' won the Most Aggresive rider and Combination awards. A good way to end a Challenge which almost brought the Movistar Team's first win of 2017, Valverde 2nd on Saturday.
Nairo Quintana: “The attack wasn’t on our race plan. We just wanted to get ready for the rest of the season here in Mallorca – just starting to get the legs rolling. And that was what moved me to act this way today. I accelerated before the climb to test how I was feeling, and at the end of the uphill, I found Alejandro coming from behind and joining me.
“We kept taking turns at the front together with Roelandts, but there were some big sprinters’ teams pushing hard from behind, and it was impossible to make it any further. I thought, ‘Maybe we can at least contest the stage win if we’re lucky’, but once we got to the circuit it became evident this was down to the bunch – we had to surrender.
“The most important thing, the real overview from this weekend’s racing, is feeling good and ready to go for the next goals. Valencia is coming up next; we’ll find some strong teams there and it will be more of a challenge. We will bring a decent team for the race and we’re confident we can show good level.”