Tour de France (st. 5)
Intense heat and fast pace into steep final climb on TDF day five sees Quintana losing a handful of seconds against top GC contenders; now into top-ten overall, 54" behind Chris Froome (SKY)
A tough test for Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) on Wednesday's stage five in the Tour de France saw him coming just behind the main GC contenders on the first real mountain stage in the Vosgos, over the Cat-1 La Planche des Belles Filles climb, after 160.5km covered at high pace and under temperatures amply exceeding 30ºC.
The Colombian was well supported until the foot of the last climb by his seven team-mates – most notably Amador and Castroviejo, with a remarkable approach to the decisive ascent – and kept a strong rhythm early into the climb. The Cóndor even followed a first acceleration by Chris Froome (SKY), in search for a prior attack, 2.5km from the finish, by Fabio Aru (AST). However, the man from Boyacá lost contact for the first time from a four-man pursuit group, featuring Froome, Dan Martin (QST), Porte (BMC) and Bardet (ALM). As soon as he got back, the final sprint to the line into a 20% slope saw him losing again some meters, which took him to 9th place in the stage, 34" behind the winner.
Nairo does enter the overall top-ten – he's also 9th in the GC, 54" in arrears of new yellow jersey holder Chris Froome (SKY) – and will try to progress on the next two mountain stages in the Jura, on Saturday and Sunday. Before that, two days for the sprinters will take the race further south, starting with Thursday's long stage six (216km) form Vesoul to Troyes.
Nairo Quintana: "A tough first mountain stage, a very fast one from the start, a really hot one – and it ended up not being the best one for me. My goal was not losing time and at the end, when I couldn't follow the pace, the only thing I could do was give my best and concede as little time as possible. We're still on day five, and I hope to keep improving from now on, since my body is still recovering its tone after the Giro. I knew Aru was coming to the Tour with strong form, and his attack in the finale wasn't a surprise – he launched it at the very same point Nibali did when he won here. I think he will be a winning candidate. We must carry on and remain calm, see how we can race on the many mountains still to come. The Tour is still pretty much starting."
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net