Tour de France (st. 7)
No troubles for Valverde (19th), Quintana, Landa in 231km on-bike transfer towards Chartres; last hurdle before Sunday’s cobblestones still remaining tomorrow.
The Movistar Team completed a trouble-free, consistent stage seven of the 2018 Tour de France, the longest in this year’s race over 231km from Brittany (Fougères) to the region near the country’s capital (Chartres). Dylan Groenewegen (TLJ) won the inevitable bunch sprint as Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa stayed, together with their expert team-mates, at the first half of the GC group until the very end.
The skilled, intelligent Erviti, Bennati, Rojas and Amador, well supported by Marc Soler, helped the Blues’ three leaders stay at the front as a crosswinds attempt -initiated by Trek and AG2R- was created midway through the stage to no avail, then drove them perfectly through the technical finale into the city.
The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta will have a final hurdle to overcome on Saturday before the crucial cobblestones on Sunday, with 181km from Dreux to Amiens and a slightly hillier parcours, yet with a flat finish that should again suit the fastmen.
Alejandro Valverde: “I wanted to stay in a good position before the crucial moments to avoid any splits taking me to the back. The whole team worked really well today, and that gives you huge confidence. I feel like stages so long are simply too much. 231 kilometers, which end up being 240 if you add the neutral zone – for me, they lack any sense, but it is what it is. It wasn’t easy, though, since we had to overcome some crosswinds halfway through, with added some tension. Even if it might not seem like that, it was quite fast, 41kph average, and my Garmin said 2,400m of elevation gain at the end… It looked as if it was calm, but it wasn’t like that at all. Happily, tomorrow’s stage will be shorter.”
Nairo Quintana: “It was a nervous stage at some points, but less difficult than the previous ones. We managed our way through it well, the team riding really focused and well coordinated. Another day is gone, with no bad consequences for us, and we hope to continue that way before the cobblestones on Sunday.”
Mikel Landa: “There’s no easy day, even if it might have seemed so today. There’s always some minor scares which make you remain into alert. At the Grand Tours, I feel like there should be everything you can find in cycling: long stages, short stages… this is a three-week event, and without long routes like today’s, the final days would be easier. Sunday? Well, we stay focused on getting through tomorrow first. Of course, knowing that the forecast says it will be a dry finish makes you calm, because it’s less dangerous when the pavé hasn’t seen any rain in the days before the race.”