Nairo Quintana, strong Movistar Team remain at front of bunch, get safely through two late scares on TDF stage four finish. Colombian remains 48" away from yellow jersey in eve of La Planche des Belles Filles
Stage four of the 2017 Tour de France – 207.5km from Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg to Vittel, with only one categorized climb- went from absolute calmness in the bunch, always keeping solo leader Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (WGG) under control, to enormous stress over all teams at the final half an hour's racing to keep GC contenders safe first, then contesting the decisive sprint.
Movistar Team worked as orderly as they've done so far in the race, keeping Castroviejo, Sütterlin, Erviti, Amador and Bennati at the front of the field to take care of Nairo Quintana's chances. The Colombian was still riding near the top of the group as two crashes took place inside the final kilometer: a pile-up containing race leader Geraint Thomas (SKY) and another tumble within the sprinters' fight, with Mark Cavendish (DDD) as most affected.
None from the Blues was affected by the incidents, which ensures Quintana (29th at the finish) remains 48" behind the yellow jersey in the eve of the first mountain-top finish on Wednesday. La Planche des Belles Filles (Cat-1; 5.9km at 8.5% with a hugely steep final slope) will decide a 160.5km stage five with a previous climb through Esmoulières (Cat-3) plus a fast run in to the foot of the last climb, where the GC contenders will start to really test their legs.
Nairo Quintana: "It was quite a nervous finish, but we got through it safely and it's all OK. We were able to keep some caution and it the end and fortunately it paid off. The crash was quite close to where I was, but luckily I had a strong team by my side to keep me into good position all day, so I was less prone to fall and managed to get through that final tumble.
La Planche will be quite an important test. We must keep full focus and be able to, at least, keeping our rivals' wheels without conceding any time. I saw the profile of the last climb, its gradients, it looks promising. It will also be tricky, depending on the attacks. It could happen either way. We must just keep attention and see how the contenders react. I think those who aim to contest the GC should be pretty much close.
My legs are feeling good at the moment, I'm healthy and I hope my team-mates can continue to do as well as they've done so far so we can reach the mountains perfectly fine."