Telefónica-backed squad (10th) finishes 53" behind winners BMC at 35km team time trial of Tour de France. Valverde, Landa now less than one minute behind first GC contenders.
Movistar Team completed a decent performance in one of the crucial tests of the 2018 Tour de France, a 35.5km team time trial around Cholet on stage three. The squad managed by Eusebio Unzué took 10th place into a parcours full of little climbs in its first half and long straights in the final kilometers, with notably fast speeds after the day’s most significant ‘côte’ of La Saguinière.
At the early part, the Blues limited their losses beautifully -just 2″ off Mitchelton-Scott- and spent all energies from Bennati, Erviti and Rojas, before the climb marked the most significant responsibility for Amador, Soler and their three leaders: Landa, Valverde and Quintana.
The two Spaniards now sit 16th and 17th overall, 53″ behind the new race leader, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), with Nairo Quintana at 2’08”. The Blues will now tackle another different section of this Tour’s first week -starting with stage four to Sarzeau (195km)- with technical finishes and some serious hills in Brittany, before Sunday’s fearsome pavé.
Alejandro Valverde: “I think we can feel pretty satisfied about our performance today. Losing 45, 50 seconds to the top teams was within our expectations. I feel like we did pretty well, considering the route we had to face. The first part was tougher and favoured our chances better, but the second one was flatter, and squads like Sky could take advantage. Also, if you spent much energy in the end you could pay afterwards. We leave this TT with an overall good feeling, and must continue going day-by-day, focusing on each stage. Our goal remains clear – winning the Tour with Nairo or Mikel – and even if there’s some terrain for me to shine in the upcoming days, it’s not an obsession for me to chase any wins. We’ll just go step by step.”
Nairo Quintana: “Already before the race we had stated it was an ‘anti-TTT’ for us: a route for the powerful ones, really fast, not really suited for us climbers, having to fight and limit losses against squads like Sky or BMC, who have got better specialists. I think we defended ourselves well over such a fast parcours, where the riders weighing the most could take advantage. It’s a good result – obviously, it’s not nice when you lose time, but it wasn’t so bad. The second half of the race, on windier roads and faster speeds, we did well on that. We will have to race aggressively and stay away from any other trouble from now on. There’s the pave, but also flat courses like tomorrow’s, with roundabous, traffic dividers, little downs – it’s going to be dangerous again.”
Mikel Landa: “I think today’s result is within what we expected, even a bit better. It was a very demanding time trial, and we had to profit from the early part to spend all energy with our best rouleurs, then taking the biggest turns after the hill near the finish with us leaders, Andrey and Marc, into a more difficult terrain where the specialists had to take time from us. The time we gained on Froome and other teams’ leaders on the first day was good for us and has levelled up the competition, but there’s lots of racing left. These first days are taking its toll on me a bit, because of the hot temperatures, but I’m getting better and better, hoping to build my best legs in the upcoming days.”
Picture (c): Vincent Kalut + Kei Tsuji/ BettiniPhoto.net