Tour de France (st. 14)
Magnificent work from whole Movistar Team unrewarded as Colombian cracks halfway through final climb. Mikel takes 6th place, climbs onto 11th overall as Alejandro now sits 9th.
The Movistar Team worked with incredibly commitment to take steps forward in the 2019 Tour de France at the first high-altitude mountain stage of the race, over 111km from Tarbes to the top of the legendary Col du Tourmalet-. However, the Telefónica-backed squad’s effort went partly empty-handed as Nairo Quintana cracked with 10km from the top of the ‘Souvenir Jacques Goddet’, reaching the finish 3’24” behind the day’s winner Thibaut Pinot (GFC).
The Blues’ work up until that moment was flawless. Carlos Verona got into the early break of 17 riders, kept on a leash -never more than 3′ ahead- by a peloton willing to seek for the day’s success. The Movistar Team took the lead near the top of the Soulor (Cat-1), with Marc Soler and an exceptional Andrey Amador selecting the group of contenders down to 30 riders. Verona, back to the field after his move, kept the pace high until the foot of the Tourmalet, and once Quintana was dropped -with Soler in his support-, Alejandro Valverde completed a great effort to finish 12th, less than a minute behind a GC group where Landa -6th, +14″- stayed until the final sprint.
Julian Alaphilippe (DQT) remains in the lead, with an even bigger gap on second place -more than two minutes over Geraint Thomas (INS)-, as Valverde becomes the top Movistar Team rider in 9th, with Landa in 11th and Quintana in 14th. The huge effort on today’s stage will surely leave its mark on Sunday’s final Pyrenean stage, 185km and the consecutive climbs of Lers, Mur de Péguère and Prat d’Albis (Cat-1) at the end.
Mikel Landa: “My body went a bit down with 5km to go, and the good legs I had in the beginning of the stage were no more. Still, I think we did really well. We were hopeful about our chances of contesting the victory today, but Nairo didn’t have a good stage and we had to change our plans a bit. The race was really fast all day, with tailwinds and high temperatures in the final climb. That made all favourites just want to get through the day, not really attacking before the sprint. We could see some hints of what’s to come: Jumbo-Visma had three riders at the front in the end, Alaphilippe did not lost time at all, Pinot is so strong. Another important stage tomorrow. I think there could be big gaps. Stage wins or GC? I’d like to be in the mix for a stage win and finish as close to the podium as possible. There are still a couple of stages with several big climbs, where we could have GC riders with lost time attacking from afar – it could still chance much. I’m feeling quite better, having my home fans here means a lot to me. There’s still a long way to go.”
Alejandro Valverde: “I think we did a pretty good stage, taking the reins of the peloton from well before the finish, trying to do our thing. Nairo wasn’t having a good leg, but we didn’t know it, he didn’t tell us, you’d have to ask him why. In the end I missed a bit of strength, but seeing the high speeds near the top, I couldn’t really continue to follow their pace if I didn’t want to crack badly. I lost only 57-58″, which is pretty good. A new team leader for the rest of the race? Well, I think it’s clear we’ll need a change, no? On the other hand, looking at the GC contenders, there’s no one clearly ahead of the rest: Alaphilippe was also struggling like the rest, everyone was on the limit – Pinot actually looks like he’s doing better than the others.”
Nairo Quintana: “It’s clear it wasn’t a good day. The crash (on Wednesday) might have played a role in that. We must continue to push for Mikel and Alejandro, we’ve got to support them. They’re now ahead of me in the GC, and we must give them support. I hoped to have a good day, yet my body didn’t respond well. Mikel was doing well and I thought I couldn’t really ask my team-mates to wait for me. Let’s see how my body responds to the upcoming efforts.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto