Abu Dhabi Tour (st. 3) / Volta ao Alentejo (st. 4)
Quintana finishes just under a minute behind Costa (UAD) after deep marking between top guns in Abu Dhabi Tour. Barbero again 2nd in Portugal, strengthens yellow jersey position before Sunday's showdown
He proved to be one of the strongest climbers in the Abu Dhabi Tour, yet race circumstances brought Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) a different result than expected. The Colombian had to stay content with 10th place in Jebel Hafeet, the Emirati race's sole mountain-top finish, 58" off Rui Costa (UAD). The ex-Blue profited from sharp vigilance between the top guns in the event to create a huge gap alongside Ilnur Zakarin (KAT), whom he beat at the final sprint. All of that, after great teamwork from the Chente García Acosta-led squad all over the 186km from Al Ain's depart.
Dowsett, Sütterlin, Arcas and Erviti perfectly covered Quintana against the wind, a labour completed, following an impressive week, by Italian Daniele Bennati, whose approach to the steepest part of the ascent even tore the bunch apart.
Nairo tried three times to go on the attack, yet being unable to drop either Vincenzo Nibali (TBM) or Alberto Contador (TFS), the three left their leading role to second favourites. Despite crucial move-following from Rubén Fernández -a great race by the Spaniard in his maiden stagerace appearance of 2017- and Jesús Herrada, the Blues' designated leader only got up to 12th overall with one day to go in his WorldTour debut of the season.
The Abu Dhabi Tour will come to an end on Sunday with 25 laps of the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit (143km), the sprinters set to take center stage again.
Nairo Quintana: "It was sad that we couldn't fight for the win today. In the end, there wasn't much energy left if you had to go on the attack and also respond to your rivals' moves. There were so many competitors looking after my attacks, and that made it difficult to create any gaps. Plus, many were looking at me as other countered, so when the 'right' riders went past, the decisive escape was made and we didn't stand any chance. All in all, I'm most happy about what the team did for me all week as well as today. They all made efforts to keep me calm inside the bunch before today's climb, and that makes me confident for the future."
Alentejo: Barbero one day away from glory
Again close but no cigar for Carlos Barbero (Movistar Team) in the 35th Volta ao Alentejo, and again stronger in the lead after a huge day of work from his team-mates. It was a tight pursuit this time on stage four, 175km between Odemira and Alcácer do Sal, as Efapel, Postobón and the Jaimerena/Laguía-led team had to make up five minutes in less than 50km against early escapees Britton, Huffman (RLC), Jamieson (SKT) and Nych (GAZ).
At today's yet again uphill sprint finish, Logan Owen (AHB) bested Barbero, whose six-second bonus ups his gap to Nocentini (STA) to 17". The margin, unsurmountable with only bonuses up for grabs at the last sprint, makes the Blues slightly more calm heading into tomorrow's showdown in Évora (169km). A squad of young riders -Pedrero, Bico, Carretero and Carapaz, together with the more experienced Andrey Amador and Oliveira- which is taking care of its leader en route to a historic feat in the Portuguese event, where no man has been able to claim two GC triumphs.
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