Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (st. 4)
One-man-show by Colombian from Movistar Team in Mas de la Costa: claims first Blue win in 2017, dons Comunitat Valenciana leader's jersey with one day to go
He came into the decisive day of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana with a 54” deficit against the GC leader, a gap seemingly unsurmountable in only four kilometers of definitive climbing, yet Saturday brought a pure exhibition by Quintana in the Mas de la Costa ascent, one of the most amazing display in his already-prolific career, to take over the leader’s jersey, claim the Movistar Team’s first success of the 2017 season and celebrate his 27th birthday in style.
Helped out by his seven team-mates, who sustained the pace of a Sky-driven peloton all over the 4,000-meter elevation gain the stage contained before the last Cat-1 ascent, Nairo attacked right from the bottom of the ascent, initially followed by Amaro Antunes (W52) and Merhawi Kudus (DDD). The Portuguese rider was soon dropped back, with the Eritrean still keeping Quintana’s wheel for just over one kilometer before losing sight of the Colombian’s wheel. A very steady pace, the signature move of the now-27-year-old superstar, ended up bringing him the 32nd victory of his career, 40" ahead of Kudus and 1'07" over Ben Hermans (BMC), tied with team-mate and yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet and now second overall at 13 seconds with one day to go.
The squad directed by José Luis Jaimerena has a very short and fast stage ahead on Sunday: 130km starting at Paterna and finishing with a urban circuit around Valencia’s City Hall, with an only climb in the Alto del Oronet (Cat-3). In the Turia capital, Nairo hopes to start his 2017 season just like he ended his 2016 efforts in the Vuelta a España: on top of the podium of a stagerace.
Nairo Quintana: “Today’s plan went nearly perfect. We’re still watching how my body reacts to these early-season efforts and today, happily, it responded well.
“As in every stage of this race, the team covered me perfectly and I could save all of my energy before the climb. I jumped from the very foot, saw myself doing well, and carried on. I really found great legs over the steepest parts of the climb, so today’s effort seems like a good sign. We will keep on refining our training plan to keep this form growing up.
“It’s a very special victory in my birthday. A success that makes me calm and confident, as it proves we did some good work over the winter. We have very clear goals in mind and we’re approaching them correctly. I don’t feel like this is a warning for my rivals, though. We’re still so early in this season, and things just went well into one race. We took advantage from the moment, but it doesn’t mean anything regarding the big goals. Even so, this victory makes us tremendously happy – it’s quite an important success for our team, the first one – and a good one.
“I want to dedicate this win to my family, my wife, my little daughter, my dad and my brothers, always helping me out wherever I needed to; and especially to my friend Adriano Malori. We think about him a lot and we’re raring to have him with us into races. Also, to all the team, staff and sports directors included, as they make our work go so smoothly.”
Dubai Tour: Dowsett 10th on final GC
Also on Saturday, there was a proper end to the 4th Dubai Tour with 124km of racing in and around the city, following Friday’s cancellation of the most demanding stage. Marcel Kittel (QST) took all honours by claiming his third win and the overall classification, as Carlos Barbero and Daniele Bennati unsuccessfully tried to get in the mix. The Blues’ leading performance came again from their most consistent athlete this week, Briton Alex Dowsett, 16th across the line of the City Walk and 10th in the final overall, 27” from Kittel thanks to bonus seconds ammassed on Thursday.
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport