Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was unable to stay with Tour de France rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the descent on the Port de Balès and so missed out on a possible stage victory and overall success at the Route du Sud, giving his rival a first psychological victory in the build-up to the Tour de France. However the Colombian climber insisted he was satisfied with his form and his performances after spending a six weeks away from racing, training at home in Colombia.
Contador and Quintana were expected to attack each other the Port de Balès but instead played tactical mind games, almost giving Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale) a chance of a prestigious stage victory. Contador attacked several times, taking jabs at Quintana but the Movistar rider replied each time. However he refused to work to chase down Latour.
The trio eventually reached the summit of the Port de Balès together, then Contador managed to open a small gap on the descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon, with some high-speed descending. Quintana missed the moment to go with Contador and opted to avoid taking the same risks just two weeks from the Tour de France. He finished 13 seconds behind, putting him 17 seconds back in the overall classification with only Sunday’s rolling stage left to race.
“I'm very satisfied with what my performance; it was a great test, I felt strong,” Quintana said in a statement on the Movistar team. “Tinkoff drove a high pace all stage long; it was really like a Tour de France stage, with huge speed all the way. Contador made some strong attacks halfway through the climb but I could respond pretty well.”
The two Tour de France were seen talking during the climb, with Contador claiming that Quintana refused to work with him to control Latour because he was worried that the Giro d’Italia winner was very strong. Quintana offered a different explanation, revealing that he didn’t want to be drawn into a head to head fight with Contador on the climb and especially on the testing descent.
“At some certain point, he (Contador) said that should I take some turns on the front and that he'd let me win the stage. I responded him that I wouldn't take any turns nor attack him,” Quintana explained.
“The roads into the descent were gritty, there was no sense in taking any chances and losing everything. Contador really made a risky descent. As I said before, I'm happy with how I rode: my body responded well to the efforts.”
The Route du Sud ends on Sunday with a 166km stage from Revel to Gaillac in the rolling hills of the Tarn region, meaning Contador is set for overall victory in his first race since triumphing at the Giro d’Italia.