Nairo finishes 11th atop Peyragudes, more than 2' behind Romain Bardet (ALM); Colombian now sits 4'01" behind new race leader Aru (AST) after losing contact into Peyresourde ascent
Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) continued to struggle finding his best legs to keep the favourites' pace in the 2017 Tour de France at a grueling first Pyrenees stage, 214.5km from Pau with six rated climbs and the closing succession of Balès (HC), Peyresourde (Cat-1) and Peyragudes (Cat-2).
The Colombian, who had Imanol Erviti at the front into the early break until the final slopes of Balès, as well as Castroviejo, Herrada and Betancur by his side into that penultimate climb, started suffering as the Peyresourde kicked off for the favourites, conceding more than a minute into the first 4km of the climb as Sky picked up the pace for then-leader Chris Froome.
Quintana held a steady pace, though, and managed his energy well over the decisive stages: the Cóndor limited his loss to 1’20” at the top and, despite the final rush from the GC contenders at the tough finishing climb, completed the stage only 2’04” behind Romain Bardet (ALM). In turn, Fabio Aru (AST) took over the race leader, as Nairo conserved his 8th spot at 4'01" from the Italian.
Friday will bring another mountain stage, yet one completely different to today's: only 101km from Saint-Girons to Foix, with the Cat-1 cols of Latrape, Agnes and the Mur de Péguère, crested just 27km from the finish.
Nairo Quintana: "We fought all the way that we could, but you really have to admit that I'm not as strong as I would have wanted to be. When I dropped back from the favourites' group, I though I'd be losing lots of time, but in the end, I managed to keep myself together and it wasn't so tragic. My goal now? I don't know, maybe chasing a stage win, but to be honest, now I only want to get my strength back. I can't go for anything before I get myself back on track. I'm not where I would like to be at the moment, but there's still more than a week left in this Tour, so you never know.
"As I've stated in previous occassions, it's my first time chasing the Giro – TDF double, and it's obvious that it didn't go well. You make gambles, sometimes you win them, sometimes you don't, and it wasn't to be this time, but next year we will do better, going for the Tour as in previous years. We'll surely be in better condition than this year."