Tirreno-Adriatico (st. 4) / Paris-Nice (st. 1)
Movistar Team -with fine opening TTT in Camaiore-, Gorka Izagirre -great ITT up the Mont Brouilly- claim fourth places, take hold of solid GC positions for Spaniard and Nairo Quintana ahead of many contenders on Wednesday
It was definitely a great start to the Movistar Team's 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico (pictures), as the squad formed by Nairo Quintana, Castroviejo, Dowsett, Oliveira, Sütterlin, Bennati, Amador and Moreno clocked the fourth quickest time over Wednesday's 22.7km opening team time trial in Lido di Camaiore. Despite finishing 22" off the time of an unstoppable BMC Racing squad, the group directed in Italy by José Luis Jaimerena and Chente García Acosta defended themselves really well against some of the world's best TTT specialists.
The Blues were 2nd fastest -behind Lotto-Soudal, whom they beat by half a minute at the finish- through the intermediate check, 9.5km in, and kept composure into the second half of the course to end up 5" behind QuickStep (2nd); equal to FDJ (3rd); and significantly ahead of several teams including major GC contenders: 31" over Bahrain-Merida (Nibali); 33" better than Astana (Aru); 36" ahead of Trek (Mollema) and 1'20" quicker than Sky (Landa), the British team going through several difficulties all over the course.
Nairo Quintana thus reinforces his candidacy to overall success in a race that will offer no easy stages. Already on Thursday, the Colombian will wind a really long route (228km) with a sting at the end into Pomarance's slopes, prelude to a high-intensity weekend over the Terminillo (Saturday) and the steep hills around Fermo (Sunday).
Paris-Nice: Gorka Izagirre into provisional GC podium
The day's other big line from the Movistar Team was offered by Gorka Izagirre on stage four of the 75th Paris-Nice (images from the race), a 14.5km individual time trial with three kilometers of uphill finish towards the Mont Brouilly. The Basque allrounder used his power on the flat to claim the second best intermediate result of all participants, behind an unbeatable Julian Alaphilippe (QST), and stayed strong through the ascent to finish in a fine 4th spot, less than a second behind both Alberto Contador (TFS, 2nd) and Tony Gallopin (LTS, 3rd).
The two Frenchmen now best Izagirre overall -the man from Ormaiztegi sits in 3rd, 47" back- as the Blues' GC contender now looks to keep or improve his result over the demanding four stages left to go -Henao (SKY), Martin (QST), Zakarin (KAT) and Contador all sit within 50" behind Gorka-. A finish suiting his characteristics will follow in Fayence, on Friday, before a tough Queen stage sets things straight on Saturday atop the Col de la Couillole, in the eve of an intense mountain showdown around Nice on Sunday.