Tour de France (st. 17)
Colombian -supported by strong Movistar Team- wins atop Col du Portet, five years after Semnoz; climbs onto 5th overall with one mountain stage to go.
The Cóndor of Boyacá just made his legend even bigger. Five years and five days after raising his arms victorious in Annecy, while still wearing the white jersey as top under-26 competitor of the race, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), 28 years old, claimed honours at Wednesday’s second Pyrenees stage of the 2018 Tour de France, a short, 65km route with three big climbs – Peyragudes (Cat-1), Val Louron (Cat-1) and the Col du Portet (HC) – where the Cómbita-born rider bested all overall classification contenders.
Repeating the action which took him onto success just over a month ago at the Queen stage of the Tour de Suisse in Arosa, Quintana -who had suffered a couple of mechanicals up the Peyresourde, quickly helped back to the group by Amador, Bennati and Erviti– attacked from the foot of the last ascent, continuing excellent pacing from Marc Soler to make things harder for his rivals in the GC peloton.
Nairo continued to overtake riders and found vital support on his way to victory by Alejandro Valverde, part of the early break with Soler and launching the Colombian’s pace once again to leave him at the front of the race with 9km to go, with the only company of Rafal Majka (BOH). With a gap always around one minute, Quintana maintained a steady pace as well as imposing, taking the better from Majka with 6km remaining and staying thirty seconds ahead of Dan Martin (UAD), who had anticipated Nairo’s move and always was his nearest pursuit within the GC contenders.
Quintana’s exploit -the Movistar Team’s 23rd victory in the 2018 season- leads the Blue rider up to 5th overall, 3’30” behind Geraint Thomas (SKY) and 59″ off Chris Froome’s (SKY) third spot. Mikel Landa -9th across the line, 7th overall at 4’34”- and Valverde -12th in the day, 11th in the standings- reinforce the Telefónica-backed squad’s team GC lead, rounding off a great performance from the Eusebio Unzué-led group before Friday’s final mountain stage over the Col du Tourmalet.
Nairo Quintana: “It was a really hard day, but a magnificent one for us, really comforting. It was a stage I had marked down many weeks before this race, one I had prepared well for. I regret so much not having found good legs prior to this stage; my body just didn’t feel right, and lost too much time, which made me feel bad. Fortunately, I’m doing well now – let’s hope we can take advantage and fight hard on Friday, because we really believe we can still do something big in this Tour. The Movistar Team always trusted my skills – and here are some results to pay them back them!
“The team was perfect today. We had Alejandro up there in the breakaway, helping me out as much as he could after the attack I had launched. Also Soler, leading the peloton with a hard pace, trying to make things harder for our rivals before my move. We knew it was a finish for pure climbers, and it showed today. Thanks to the team’s work and Alejandro’s support, I could ride over the Col du Portet as if it were a mountain TT, and attack without looking back. This win gives me massive confidence for the remainder of the Tour de France. We must continue fighting and attacking – we know the GC win will be extremely hard, but we’ll try to make the race hard and see how far we can reach.
“Things did not go well for us in this Tour. We had some rough days, we were feeling sad. This brings us confidence and reasserts our will to fight in this race. I thank all my time, I thank God for protecting us and giving us hope and strength; my family and friends, always supporting me, giving me some advice, praying so things went well for us; and all Colombian fans. I feel their support on the road, wherever I go, with their messages on social media – it’s great to have them by our side, it really means a lot to me, makes me continue to push hard.“