Reflections on the 'Grande Boucle'
Movistar Team general manager comments on setbacks the Blues had to face over the three weeks of racing, leaving with a stage win, three GC top-ten finishes -Mikel Landa in 6th- and their second consecutive team GC.
“As in every TDF start, we were so excited to get the race going, and already since the first mountain stage our team showed it was going to be combative and really give our rivals a run for their money, especially in our terrain. At La Planche des Belles Filles, we understood Mikel felt really great and could be able to match the top contenders. Sadly, after the Massif Central we encountered what we never would wish to find: a crash, which made him concede more than two minutes and took him out of an equal position to fight against the five best riders in this Tour toe-to-toe. The disadvantage imposed by the crash, combined with the time losses at the TTs, made us enter the Pyrenees with a need for attacks which we could turn the tables in our favour with.
“At the Tourmalet, we reconfirmed Mikel was on par with the strongest climbers, even if not superior to them, and at Prat d’Albis, with great help from the whole team all day -especially from Marc and Andrey after the Mur de Péguère-, Mikel made us conceive a possibility to make up some, if not all, of that gap against the top riders. And so we entered the final week: knowing that he was up there with the best, but unable to fight with his rivals in an equal situation because of those margins.
“During the second half of the race we saw Jumbo-Visma, Bora, INEOS and Groupama keeping under control all those moves the Deceuninck squad weren’t sorting out themselves. At the Alps, the team’s big effort allowed us carrying out some of the strategies we wanted to develop to help Mikel out. We found some reward to all of those efforts with Nairo’s victory, one achieved in his usual style, with all of the class he’s able to deploy on the road. Sadly, you know what happened last Friday -it was awful for our chances, and it somewhat blurred, overshadowed what the Tour finale could have been-, and yesterday in Val Thorens we were left with a bitter taste of a near-victory we came just short for in the last few meters – though we must admit Nibali really deserved to win that one.
“Those ahead of us in the GC have really earned that, they were stronger than us, that’s the reality. We leave this Tour with a great stage victory, that close call with Alejandro yesterday -it would have been a sensational success, and an emotional moment for him at nearly 40 years old- and that team GC, which is a reward to all team members as we’re again able to enjoy the Paris podium with them.”
ONE BY ONE
Mikel Landa: “He’s done really great, battling with the top contenders nearly all the time. His gap in the final GC doesn’t really reflect what he showed during the race. He’s been on par with the top riders, and you might argue he might have also finished sixth without that crash, but quite closer to the winner.”
Nairo Quintana: “He rewarded the team’s attitude and great work during the whole Tour with his stage victory. It’s true that he might have missed that bit of punch, that spark which made him become a ‘killer’ at certain mountain stages earlier in his career, now unable to do things as he used to against the top contenders.”
Alejandro Valverde: “He came here without the pressure of having to contest the GC, looking to give Mikel and Nairo a hand, and he did basically what he could. His consistency and great fitness allowed him finishing with the GC contenders at nearly every mountain stage, and coming so, so close to giving us that second stage victory on Saturday.”
Andrey Amador: “He’s done a spectacular job all over this Tour, simply brilliant. In the mountains, in less lumpy terrains – he’s really multiplied himself to take care of the team’s needs. Simply spectacular, during the whole Tour.”
Marc Soler: “He continues to take big steps forward. He’s left notes of that quality he continues to build on, still in the early phase of his career. He’s been a crucial team-mate at key moments of the race, even yesterday until the very last minute.”
Carlos Verona: “It was his first experience in the Tour, and he was still struggling with a crash he suffered at the Spanish Championship just before the Tour, which made him not being able to shine as much early in the race. However, with every stage passing he steadily improved, and he was doing really great coming into the third week of the race. He’s a young lad who continues to learn and mature – he’ll surely become a key domestique in years to come.”
Nelson Oliveira: “He’s our ‘joker’, a man for all seasons. He can be at the breakaways in the early part of the stages, work with enormous class in mountain stages – his polyvalent style makes him really useful for the team.”
Imanol Erviti: “He’s the man of experience, the one who always supports his team-mates with that solid work in those terrains where our leaders tend to struggle. One you can’t miss in a Tour de France.”