Spaniard from Movistar Team recovers after getting boxed in before final kick uphill, shows good legs in first of two lumpy arrivals in Brittany.
The usually nervous first week of the 2018 Tour de France combined on Wednesday with the slopes and narrow rodes of Brittany during stage five -204.5km between Lorient and Quimper, with five rated ascents and plenty of little hills-. The Movistar Team, with great work from Erviti, Soler and a sensational Rojas and Amador, was able to cover all its three main cards perfectly and then tackled a tricky, uphill finish with Alejandro Valverde, who had to battle against more powerful specialists.
The Spaniard, who started his effort from near the back with no chance to gain places, made a very long sprint and progressed towards a fine 4th place at the finish, behind Peter Sagan (BOH), Sonny Colbrelli (TBM) and Philippe Gilbert (QST). The marvel from Murcia gets up to 13th overall, with Mikel Landa -14th- and Nairo Quintana in the same time from ‘Bala’, 55″ and 2’10” off the yellow jersey. Thursday will bring a steeper finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne (Cat-3), whose slopes will be tackled twice in the finale of stage six -181km from Brest-.
Alejandro Valverde: “I was quite behind as I entered the final slope, and had to make a big effort to reach the top contenders with a very, very long sprint. There were still many powerful guys in the group and it was hard for me to aim for a victory here – which he knew already before the start. Still, I think that we showed we’re doing well, being able to finish behind those names. We continue to take one step at a time, our legs feel great, and I hope we can recover well tonight to tackle Mûr-de-Bretagne in good condition. I don’t know if it will suit me better or worse, but we will try to be up there.”
Mikel Landa: “It was a very explosive finish, not one that suited me really well, since I’m a climber who likes longer ascents. However, the main goal here was getting safely through, and this result is already good for us. We lost time with Nairo on day one, but otherwise, we’re doing pretty well. The biggest share of that resides on our team-mates’ efforts: they’ve got an enormous workload on their shoulders, having to protect three leaders, and they’re doing an amazing job. Tomorrow? Let’s see if there’s any gaps at the final climb – hopefully we can take some advantage.”
Nairo Quintana: “There was a lot of wear and tear in this stage, which was one to seek always for a good position to be able to cope with the nerves in the finale. We had to get to the final hills in a good position, which we did, so we didn’t have to regret from any losses. It was a very explosive finish – the classics riders and resistant sprinters had a real edge here against the climbers. It didn’t really suit my abilities, but happily, we’re getting to ride on some slopes and we feel like our terrain is slowly approaching. Mûr-de-Bretagne – we climbed it in 2015, I felt well. We’ll have to work as we did today, stay always near the front and remain focused before the two final climbs.”
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net