Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had Chris Froome worried - and perhaps a few members of the press who had already written their copy - when he darted up the Alpe d’Huez with less than 10 kilometres remaining. The Colombian looked as strong as he’s been throughout this whole Tour, dancing on the pedals as he distanced Froome.
Quintana’s advantage built slowly at first but as it passed the minute mark, there were cheers among the Colombian contingent when it looked like he might do the unthinkable. The Movistar rider took a considerable amount of time on the yellow jersey, who admitted in his post-race press conference that he was on his limit in those final kilometres, but it wasn’t quite enough.
“To be second is not bad. It is two years since I was there and this year I started from zero, with a different position, and also I got another good result,” said Quintana. “I have confirmed that what I did before wasn’t a fluke and I have reiterated my capabilities. I am a little sad but not frustrated.
“I lost the Tour in the first week in Holland, when we gave away this minute and a half in Zeeland. The team were caught in a crash that left us unprotected in the wind.”
Quintana began the week just over three minutes down on Froome but he remained confident, knowing that the Alps favoured his capabilities. He was able to trim 30 seconds plus bonuses off the deficit but a considerable gap of 2:38 remained. To overcome such a time difference was going to require something big from the 25-year-old Colombian, and he set out to do just that.
“We designed a strategy from far out. We attacked on the Croix de Fer but we could not get away like we thought,” explained Quintana. “It wasn’t to be and we gave it all in the final climb. The plan b was Alpe d’Huez. We took back a little bit of time but it wasn’t enough to win the Tour. The whole climb was marvellous. I always give it my best and today with a great Winner Anacona.”
Quintana will share the podium in Paris with his teammate Alejandro Valverde, who kept hold of his third place ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). After four top 10 finishes and a fourth place in 2014, it is Valverde’s best finish at the French race.
“I am really happy for him. It is a podium that he has been looking for almost his whole sporting career,” said Quintana. “I have already given thanks to the team and I am happy because he is a great racer that can win from January to December, in one-week races, one-day races and make the podium in three-weeks tours.”