Tour de France (st. 13)
Oliveira (11th), Valverde (14th) just over 1′ behind surprising winner Alaphilippe (DQT) as Landa (+1’45”), Quintana (+1’51”) complete decent effort before Saturday’s Tourmalet finish.
Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (DQT) offered yet another big surprise at Friday’s 27km individual time trial in the 2019 Tour de France, winning stage 13 in Pau ahead of the biggest favourite, Geraint Thomas (INS). The technical, lumpy course saw just small margins between the race contenders, the Movistar Team limiting its losses or even completing performances slightly above expected.
Two Blues finished near the best ten at the day’s result: Nelson Oliveira, 11th at 1’03” from Alaphilippe, and Alejandro Valverde, who finished 14th (+1’11”) and came, despite designated as the team leaders’ ultimate support, close to an overall top-ten he’s now 34″ short. It’s actually Nairo Quintana who sits just over that line, the Colombian conceding 1’51” against the winner to now sit in ninth place in the GC, 3’55” behind Alaphilippe. Meanwhile, Mikel Landa, 1’45” after the yellow jersey at the finish, is now 6’00” behind in 18th.
Saturday’s stage will be a return to the Pyrenees in style, the short stage 14 (117.5km from Tarbes) including the big climbs to the Soulor (Cat-1) and the brutal, legendary Tourmalet from its west side (Luz-Saint-Sauveur), 19km at over 7% average gradient (Hors Categorie).
Alejandro Valverde: “I’m happy, I think we all in the team did pretty much OK at the time trial. I didn’t really know the route – the first time I checked it out was at today’s recon. I didn’t do anything special before it, but I felt great. The important thing we must focus on about today, though, is that both Mikel and Nairo didn’t lose a lot of time, they did alright. Now it’s all about the mountains – we’ll see what we can do. Let’s hope we can turn things around in this week ahead. What do I expect from the Tourmalet? I expect to reach the top (laughs). Let’s see what our team staff has in mind and what we can do.”
Mikel Landa: “Seeing the gaps against those who finished just before me, it seems like a good sign about my TT. I felt OK. It was a very demanding route, and it’s also a good sign that I could go better and better over the course. Saturday’s stage is my favourite one – I’d pick it for a win if I could choose one, but surely there will be many people with the same intentions about winning at the Tourmalet. We didn’t have really warm temperatures so far in this year’s Tour, and that could change tomorrow – maybe our bodies react in an unexpected way. We’ll see how we do.”
Nairo Quintana: “My legs felt fine during the TT. Let’s hope it’s the same for the mountains, so we can perform well. We lost some time today, yet I felt OK. The final section was really flat, which meant the big rouleurs could push harder and gain more speed than us climbers. Now it’s time to attack – the mountains come, it’s our terrain.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto