Vuelta a España (st. 2)
The intelligence and talent of Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) floated back to the surface once again as he made all the right moves into the final section of a demanding stage two in La Vuelta 2019 -200km from Benidorm to Calpe, with the steep Puig Llorença (Cat-2) as decisive point- to take the day’s win and reassert his condition as one of the biggest contenders of the race.
The Telefónica-backed squad’s hard work was visible up to the foot of the last climb, with Arcas, Erviti and Oliveira protecting Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, who showed great legs with several accelerations towards the top of the hill. After the summit, and from a front split only consisting of about 20 riders, Nairo jumped off the front together with Urán (EF1), Roche (SUN), Nieve (MTS), Roglic (TJV) and Aru (UAD), leaving behind the other favourites and building a 40″ gap. With 3km to go, the front group started to think about the stage win – the exact moment when Quintana launched his final attack.
The acceleration by the ‘Cóndor of Boyacá’, 3km from the end, left his breakaway companions behind and served him as launchpad for his 8th Grand Tour stage win, as well as the Movistar Team’s 20th victory in 2019 and a significant improvement in the overall standings: Nairo is now 2nd in the GC, just 2″ behind Nicolas Roche (SUN), with Valverde -10th today- in twelfth place, 49″ down. Two theorically sprinter-suited stages on Monday and Tuesday will now preceed the first real mountain test on Wednesday, atop the Javalambre ski station.
REACTION / Nairo Quintana:
“It was kind of a different finish, and a very beautiful one. I had never won like that so far in my career – there’s always a first time, isn’t there? A special day for me, and one that I really needed to happen. It was also a massive boost for the team, which deserved this from so long. We’ve been working all day, in great harmony, with Alejandro and all of our team-mates doing so well – and we got that prize we deserved.
“We didn’t expect the front split in the Puig Llorença to be such a small group – we expected to have a sprint stage, maybe with a quite restricted peloton, but still with some sprinters there. Alejandro and I tried to make those moves after the top, going one rider at a time, and once that six-man group went away, I tried to keep taking turns so the pace didn’t stop. I found a moment to attack and didn’t hesitate nor looked behind: if it sticked, great, and if it didn’t, at least I would have been trying.
“We’re only two days into this race; there’s so much still left, we must not get too optimistic with this win. It’s a joy we will surely enjoy, because of the morale it gives you, and it will surely make the team ride calmer and stronger. But there’s all mountains still to cover in this Vuelta.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto