Colombian gets fine support from Movistar Team in fast stage through Fermo's steep circuit, improves distance to second -50" over Pinot (FDJ)- with two days until closing TT as Yates (ORS) abandons
Nairo Quintana's (Movistar Team) defense of his GC lead in Tirreno-Adriatico started on Sunday with a long, demanding 210km journey from Rieti to Fermo, through the areas affected by last summer's dreadful earthquake in central Italy. A day when the Colombian and his team-mates had to put on a strong performance to keep the Maglia Azzurra on their shoulders.
Two dangerous breakaways -an eleven-man attempt in the beginning of the stage and, most notably, a quartet including Luxembourg's Bob Jungels (QST) and Polish Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY)- forced Dowsett, Sütterlin, Amador, Oliveira and Bennati to work their hearts out all the way down to the final circuit, a series of 'walls' which Nairo, assisted by Moreno and Castroviejo (who dropped back to 8th overall today), tackled with the same strength he found yesterday through the Monte Terminillo. The leader of the telephone squad even went on the attack through the penulaimte climb, Reputolo, 4km from the finish, tearing apart a group that ultimately reached the finish with only ten riders together. World Champion Peter Sagan (BOH) outsprinted a group mostly consisting climbers for the day's win.
Apart from the six-second bonus obtained by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), 2nd over the line and now 50" behind Quintana, the biggest change in the overall standings this Sunday came from an early abandon of Briton Adam Yates (ORS), until then the biggest threat for Nairo's GC success in 2nd place. Quintana should find an easier path on Monday -the 168km towards Civitanova Marche do not include any really big climbs- before he faces his chance to claim a second Tirreno title on Tuesday, at the 10km San Benedetto del Tronto ITT.
Nairo Quintana: “The attack into the penultimate climb was just a move to create some selection into the group – I couldn’t let all big riders come together into the sprint because it could have made for a dangerous finish. Surprised by Sagan’s win? No, I don’t think so. We have seen him winning almost everywhere. I feel like riders like him look at these stages as if they were classics. Plus, these short climbs suit them better than they do for us.
“It was a tough day to control, yet my team kept me well supported until the final circuit. Let’s hope we find an easier stage tomorrow – the sprinters’ teams will surely be looking to secure a bunch finish. For the time being, my gap against the main rivals looks good for the TT. It’s not like I’m a bad time trialist, but considering how strong the specialists in this discipline are – those behind me – you’ve got to be cautious. I hope it’s enough of a margin to win the race, I think it should, but we must ride strong also on Tuesday to secure this.”