“The important thing is having a Movistar rider win the Vuelta”
10 September 2018

Vuelta a España / Second rest day

Reactions from Alejandro Valverde (2nd overall), Nairo Quintana (3rd) and Eusebio Unzué in Suances, during the second, final rest day of the Vuelta a España, prior to Tuesday's 32km ITT to Torrelavega.

Alejandro Valverde

“You’ve all have already seen how close we’re to each other in terms of strength. At some stages one builds a little gap, then loses it in others… It’s really tight between the main contenders. I feel like tomorrow’s time trial could be one that makes bigger gaps than all those that we had in the last couple of mountain stages. We’ll have a clearer GC situation from tomorrow on – not a strictly defined scenario, since there will still be three tough mountain stages remaining agfter Tuesday, but we should find the biggest gaps between the race contenders so far in this race tomorrow.”

What we want is winning the Vuelta a España for Movistar. There has been a lot of fuss around in the press about who the team leader is, or whether there’s a fight between the two of us. The real thing is that it’s been a phenomenal Vuelta for us up to this point, and that we really get on well with each other and the rest of the group. We’ve got clear in mind that there’s a strong contender ahead of us, which is Yates, who will be hard to beat, and also that wanting to win the Vuelta and achieving it are two very different things. However, we Nairo and myself still both stand a strong chance to win this race. I’m 26” behind, Nairo is 33” behind. We’ve left some strong contenders behind, like Kelderman, Buchmann, De la Cruz… They had big aspirations and now they’re trailing well behind. We can’t really complain about where we’re sitting at this point. We understand each other really well, and it was my task to close the gaps yesterday while Nairo did in other stages. We did the best we could at every single stage.”

The Tour de France? It could take its toll or rather be an advantage. Right now, we don’t feel extra tired because of July. I think we should be able to stay in this form until Sunday.”

“In my case, there would be no problems if Nairo needs me to work for him, even if I’m further ahead after the time trial [Ed: the journalist quotes a 30” gap between the two after the TT]. It could be the case that I lose some time in the mountains after doing well in the TT. We can’t sacrifice a chance just because one of us is 30” ahead. You’ve got to play your cards well.”

“I know the time trial only on paper. It’s a rest day today, and having the route close to where we’re staying, we’ll spend the morning trying to get a closer feeling of where we’ll race. As Eusebio has said to me, it’s a time trial which doesn’t suit me bad, but it won’t be really worse for our rivals than for me. And I’m not Miguel Indurain, either, if you think I can build a big gap there. We’ll see what we can do after we inspect the route, and we’ll also try and get a feeling of our legs after the important efforts in the last 4-5 days.”

Nairo Quintana

“Sometimes, what you wish -in our case, getting to the race lead before the TT- isn’t what ends up happening. The fact that we’re so well matched against each other has played a big part in how the race has unfolded so far. We’re coming here after a very tough Tour de France, while some of our rivals have got the chance to prepare themselves well after racing the Giro; both of them (Yates and López) with huge protagonism. Also from the Giro came Richard Carapaz, who has come to this race fresh and strong, and helped us a lot during the last two weeks. The important thing for us is that we remain up there in contention. The gaps should be more defined after Tuesday’s TT.

“We’ve basically lost time just on bonus seconds, which I don’t like to happen. That equal strength from all main contenders has been the key for some of our rivals putting time on us based on those bonuses. I hope I can avoid that situation repeating itself in what’s remaining of this race, and together with Alejandro, pay more attention to those finishes. On the other hand, Alejandro should be the man doing the best TT performance of all main contenders, and he’ll surely take advantage. After that, we’ll see how things stand before the final mountains, and how I’m feeling.”

If I’ve got to work for Alejandro, I’ll do, that’s clear. Also, we’ll have a strong advantage by our side in the most difficult moments of those three mountain stages, which is Richard Carapaz, a man we must keep taking care of. Hopefully we’ll once again enjoy his support in the final week. Alejandro and I have always get on well with each other, and if there’s a case of me having to work for him, it wouldn’t be the first time. The friendship we’ve forged for the last seven years has made our team stronger, and has also made each other stronger. What he said is true: the only important thing is winning the Vuelta for Movistar. There’s the TT left, there’s three mountain stages left, a windy stage towards Lleida… We don’t know what will happen, but the positive thing for us is that we’re still up there, and we’ve got strong legs.”

My legs hurt; criticism hurts less than those. I’m not almighty – when there’s no energy left, there isn’t much I can do. I’m doing well, it’s just that I’m not superior to our rivals, that’s obvious. When I had the legs, I took advantage from them and attack. Some other times, I was destroyed by my rivals. In this case, I’m keeping a good level. And when I’ve got the legs, I try to attack.”

Eusebio Unzué

“I can’t define who’s the only leader of the team because the race situation hasn’t made a real gap for us to decide. The only thing those last three mountain finishes did is reinforce the feeling that we’ve got 6-7 contenders pretty equal, who are still in contention for the overall victory. We already saw what happened in Covadonga yesterday, theoretically the toughest stage in this year’s Vuelta route, from second place, which was López, to sixth, Mas, there was only six seconds. The second week, with those mountain-top finishes and the Galicia stages, was really tough but didn’t help us clear things up when it comes to the GC result. We hope that having these two chances helps us have a better chance of winning the race. It’s true that being such a protagonist team in this race, we’ve had to work tougher at some stages. On the other hand, Alejandro and Nairo defended themselves and each other really well, covering the gaps one or another, depending on the situation. That has helped us keep both riders with a chance of winning the GC. We’ve got four ‘final exams’ ahead of us this week, with a long TT on Tuesday and the three mountain-top finishes in Oiz and Andorra, where anything can happen. It seems like the Vuelta is destined to remain exciting until the very last moment. No one can still name a clear leader in this Vuelta, because the gaps are still tight. And we can’t forget that the third week of every Grand Tour tends to offer some surprises.”

“Having Alejandro opening a big gap at the TT? Well, I don’t know. He’s Alejandro, he’s not Miguel [Indurain]. And he won’t be pedaling faster tomorrow because of his previous results. He might be the rider who, by previous performances, could be racing the quickest TT of the 5-6 overall contenders. But the race is ridden tomorrow, and not on statistics rather than bikes.”

Picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport