Tour de France (st. 20)
Marc completes splendid TDF debut with top-ten result in hilly time trial, just over 1′ behind Dumoulin. Movistar squad virtually wins team prize in 2018 ‘Grande Boucle’.
The decisive time trial of the 2018 Tour de France -31km on winding, hilly roads through the Basque French Country, from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette- helped the Movistar Team confirm themselves almost certainly as winners of the team prize in the ‘Grande Boucle’, and also underlined the fantastic performance by one of its main future prospects, Marc Soler.
The 2018 Paris-Nice winner, a debutant in the French grandtour, completed his maiden appearance in France on a high note with a 9th place in the TT, only 1’22” behind World champion Tom Dumoulin (SUN). The Catalan, a powerhouse and relentless worker for his team leaders in both Alps and Pyrenees, closed his only second Grand Tour performance with a very good feeling. Alejandro Valverde also finished within two minutes of the winning time, 19th in the day.
It was a tougher race, though, for Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana, who had to put on even more brave performances in difficult physical circumstances -wear and tear from his extreme effort on Friday, in Mikel’s case; pain from Nairo’s crash on Thursday-. The pair, though, was able to retain their top-ten overall results -now 7th and 10th- despite losing one place each. Welshman Geraint Thomas (SKY) confirmed his overall success.
RIDERS’ FINAL OVERVIEW:
Mikel Landa: “It wasn’t an easy day. I didn’t feel well at all, and our rivals were quite better. It is what it is. We came here with bigger expectations, but things didn’t come the way we liked it. We fought every single day, and tried to make for a lively race as much as we could, so I feel like we should be happy about that. Considering how shitty my performance was, the best thing I can extract from the day’s racing was riding in front of such an incredible crowd. I think I was able to be regular during the Tour, all things considered. My crash in Roubaix was pretty serious, but I was able to keep composure and confirm -after last year’s fourth-place finish- I’m a consistent rider who can be up there at all times, and got another top-ten placing. We might not have been as strong as we’d have wanted to, especially on the climbs which suited us, but we can’t do anything to change what happened. Let’s hope that the Vuelta route ends up suiting our racing style better, and take a bigger advantage over our rivals. Our approach to the season also kept focus on coming fresh into the late part of the calendar, so I hope to perform well in Spain next month.”
Nairo Quintana: “It wasn’t the performance we expected today, but any means. Thursday’s crash left me really sore, with much pain to my hip and elbow, so I can be thankful it wasn’t any worse, so I could finish this race. Let’s remain optimistic, though: we were able to get another top-ten finish, and we won a big mountain stage, with support from a fantastic squad, doing things really well. Let’s move forward and look towards the Vuelta a España – I hope we can do well there. We didn’t get the result we expected in the Tour, but we remained in contention, we never stopped fighting, and we hope to be in better condition in August and September, so we can get that great result there.”
Alejandro Valverde: “I was trying to go fast today. On the climbs, my legs felt well, I was doing really fine, but there were some wet zones at the Pinodieta descent, and I might have probably conceded like 15, 20 seconds there. I think we can leave this race with satisfaction, since we showed great attitude. As in the previous Tours, even if it was fast, beautiful racing, things were really blocked, as Sky controlled the race perfectly. We tried to tear the race apart all that we could with the legs we had. We gave our absolute maximum at the mountain stages. I was one of three designated leaders at the start, but honestly, everyone knew I wasn’t – it was Mikel and Nairo who were leading the team. I had got eleven victories and four GC wins before the Tour, so I came here to support them. We attacked from afar in order to help them out, we left everything on the road. I had fun, I suffered – there was lots of different things in this Tour. In the end, we won a stage, we got Mikel and Nairo into the top ten, we’re going to win the team prize – I feel it’s a great result for us. Now it’s some rest for me, enjoying some holiday and then thinking about the Vuelta – which will all be about the World Championships.”
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net / Movistar Team