“We’re still excited and ambitious for the remainder of La Vuelta”

10 September 2019
“We’re still excited and ambitious for the remainder of La Vuelta”

Vuelta a España (second rest day)

Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Eusebio Unzué spoke to the media during the final rest day of La Vuelta in Lerma, Burgos. Their most relevant quotes are available below.

Alejandro Valverde

“It’s true that we lost a bit of time yesterday, but while Monday’s climb wasn’t a good one for us, Sunday’s result was phenomenal for the team. Other than Roglic, we’ve seen pretty much everyone losing time at some point of the race, which means that we’re pretty much equal on strength. We’re still excited and ambitious coming into this final part of La Vuelta. The team is still riding strong, Nairo continues to recover and we feel excited about the chances we still have.”

“There’s still terrain in this Vuelta for anything to happen: seeing the race leader crack, seeing ourselves losing more time or even making up some terrain before the end. As we’ve seen many times in the past, the third week can take its toll on everyone. We’re still aiming at everything in this race. We’re realistic: Roglic is so strong at the moment. However, we’ve already seen him crack in the past, and even yesterday, at López’s second attack through the La Cubilla climb, he lost some contact right after the move. However, he’s still looking really fresh at the moment. We’ve got to try. If there’s a time when we can only aim at an overall podium, we’ll go for it. My palmarès is already quite good, especially in the Vuelta, but a podium finish here would already be nice if we don’t have that chance to fight for the victory in the upcoming days.”

“The Gredos stage might look like it’s not that hard because it hasn’t got big climbs, but it will be as demanding as the Madrid Sierra one. In general, this final week has to be taken into account not only because of its profile: we’ll be riding through open roads, with big influence of the wind… You don’t need big mountains to see big gaps.”

“I’m not afraid of a bad day like the ones I had near the end of the race last year. It can happen, but if you’re thinking about it all the time, then it really is bound to happen. One has to remain optimistic, fight with everything he’s got and not think too much about something like 2018 happening all over again. It could also happen to our rivals. We’re OK, maybe a bit further from the race lead, yet the other contenders are a bit further from us than they were before the weekend.”

“I still continue to surprise myself. I’m 39 years old and I’m still here, as if it were my second Vuelta, 2003, when I was already fighting for a podium finish and took third place. Still fighting, still attacking, sometimes I gain time, sometimes I lose it, but my will to keep pushing is intact. This is how I, Alejandro Valverde, try to ride: offering as much spectacle as I’m able to do, and making the fans enjoy this sport. They really give me their support, and I can’t thank them enough for their warmth and kindness.”

Nairo Quintana

“I already stated at the start of La Vuelta that I wasn’t able to gauge how strong my body could be after the Tour. This was the first season when we focused all of our energies on the Tour, and came here without knowing how good I could do. We came to the start on a day-by-day approach, won the Calpe stage, took another victory with Alejandro, even donned the red jersey. Everyone was going really well after Andorra. However, my body started to not go so well at the TT, and four days ago, I caught some sickness and it took me out of contention. Yesterday’s stage was difficult for me because of that ‘flu’, which I hope it’s gone soon. Sometimes we enjoy our sport, sometimes we struggle. Alejandro is going really strong, and so is the rest of the team, so let’s see what we can do this week.”

“It’s not nice when things like these happen to you. You prepare yourself carefully, take all measures to be competitive, and then some other factors, such as this illness, take you out of the front. The rivals are the first hurdle you’ve got to overcome, but there’s some other things you can’t defend yourself against. When you’re tired or some virus like the one which is affecting me arise, you don’t know how to face that, and you get furious, because you thought you had done things right. But that’s life.”

Eusebio Unzué

“The Madrid Sierra and Gredos have buried many riders’ hopes in the past. One can ask Tom Dumoulin, or our friend Julián Gorospe, who lost the 1983 Vuelta just two days before the end against Hinault. Anything can happen. We’ll be getting there after 18 days of racing, with all the wear that means. The competitive level, even if the names might not seem as big as in other races, is enormous, and forces everyone to make big efforts, whether it’s attacking or in pursuit. And you have to combine that with the transfers, hours of recovery we lose, which also add more hardness to the race itself. Everyone can crack if you factor all those ingredients. Also, in Roglic’s specific case, there’s a series of protocol obligations he’s got to follow as race leader, which deprive him from some more rest. That’s something we always keep on our minds heading into that final week, and all those factors can make an impact on ourselves or the rivals.”

“After 21 days, in a Grand Tour usually the strongest wins. There’s riders who improve their form during the race, and others who start off strong and then crack on the third week. That might have been what happened to Roglic at the 2019 Giro, both to him and his team. But that’s something you learn from and improve. This version of Roglic is different from the Giro one: he’s a more solid rider, and while he made the difference at the time trial, he’s also been always with the top GC finisher at every single mountain stage. He’s been the most regular rider, and he’s got that gap from Pau which makes him ride calm and have an edge on his rivals. His team is also working very consistently.”

“I won’t say it doesn’t mean anything to me if Alejandro cracks on the final week, but the only thing I ask from him daily is that he enjoys bike racing, and that will be the case again in the upcoming stages. For us it’s an immense honour to have him still fighting for victory in a three-week stagerace, 16 years after his first Vuelta with GC podium ambitions. Being able to be there after all these years, everything he’s done, his attitude, everything around him, his generosity with everyone, the admiration he’s got from everyone here – those are feelings I can’t put into words.”

All pictures (c): Photo Gomez Sport