Tour de France (st. 4)
Telefónica-backed squad unscathed after sprint finish in Nancy, looks forward to first two mountainous stages in the 2019 TDF – most notably Thursday’s tough finish up La Planche des Belles Filles.
The 2019 Tour de France’s GC contenders enjoyed a day without too much pressure between difficult stages at Tuesday’s stage four, a 213km route from Reims to Nancy completed with a predictable bunch sprint, won by Elia Viviani (DQT). Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa -well covered, especially near the finish, by the ever-dependable Erviti, Oliveira, Soler, Amador and Verona- finished, just like their team-mates, inside the main bunch and remain 1’30” behind yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe (DQT).
The Telefónica-backed squad will now focus its efforts on the upcoming first mountain block, the Vosges, a pair of stages that start with Wednesday’s 175km towards Colmar. The route includes three climbs in the last two hours of racing, not too hard -Haut-Koenigsbourg (Cat-2), Trois-Épis (Cat-2) and Cinq Châteaux (Cat-3)-, yet useful to tune the legs back into ‘climbing mode’ before Thursday’s huge effort -seven rated ascents + a grueling finish up La Planche des Belles Filles (Cat-1)-.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a nervous finish, yet it wasn’t too hard of a stage. The nerves were high mostly near the finish. We’re finally approaching the real, longer climbs. It might not be the case tomorrow, yet Thursday’s should really be an important test for the GC contenders. Do I like Thursday’s route? Of course I do, but it’s more important that my team-mates like it, because Mikel and Nairo will be putting some credits at stake there.”
🇫🇷 #TDF2019 stage four ✅👌
— Movistar Team (@Movistar_Team) July 9, 2019
Nairo Quintana: “It was nervous all day for me, and for many others who were focused on staying away from trouble. Those urban sections, some crashes – it was a day to get over with the best you could, release those nerves and seek for better opportunities in the mountains. We had to remain focused from the very start because the winds were menacing. The stress, the roundabous, the narrowing roads – it’s important to have a strong team by your side in such moments, and the lads were there when I needed it, so I could finish with no lost time. We continue to go day by day, seeking for those good legs – it’s all going well at the moment. Let’s hope Thursday will be good for us. More than making up time, La Planche will be a good test to see where we stand and how the different contenders are doing. There has always been a man ahead of the rest at La Planche and it’s a very demanding route before the last climb this year. We’ll need to be at our best.”
Mikel Landa: “We’re finally entering the Vosges. There might not happen much tomorrow when it comes to the GC, but we will have to remain attentive and gain some climbing form before stage six. Thursday will surely bring some gaps, we’ll have to stay there or thereabouts. I was lacking some racing form on Saturday, yet I’m getting there day by day.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto