Nairo Quintana moved up to third place in the overall classification of the Tour de France and extended his lead in the best young rider competition after the first mountain finish to La Pierre Saint-Martin, yet he struggled to smile after the stage, well aware that his chances of overall victory had suffered a serious blow.
The Colombian climber was expected to go on the attack after his Movistar teammates set an infernal pace on the first part of the climb but he failed to ignite the race. He was able to initially stay with Chris Froome and Richie Porte when Team Sky set a blistering pace but was unable to go with Froome when he spun away in his unique high-cadence style.
Quintana seemed to have heavy legs that weighed him down. He lost 1:04 to Froome, with Porte coming back up to him and passing him before the line to take the six-second time bonus for second place. Quintana is now third overall, 3:09 on Froome and 17 seconds behind second placed Tejay van Garderen (BMC).
“My condition is good and I felt good but it’s clear that our big rival was a much higher level than we thought he would be,” Quintana told the media in the mixed-zone behind the podium area.
"It was a tough stage, with an infernal heat and a strong pace, especially took command of the race. We wanted to try and test some of our rivals to see how they were but we came up against the superiority of Chris Froome. He was very strong and we have to accept it.
“There’s nothing much else I can do but hope to continue to feel good and see what happens in the days to come and see if we can come up with a strategy to pull some time back. We have seen in previous years that he had trouble in the final stages; we'll see if he cracks one day or if there are days when I feel better."
Quintana did not flinch when asked if his chances of victory were gone.
“I’ve been dreaming about winning the Tour de France for a long time and we’re going to try to keep that dream alive,” he said. “My chances have taken a hit but I’ll fight to the end to try for it.
“I’m proud to be in the white jersey again, that’s something to be satisfied about. It’s the last year I can wear it and so we’ll see if we can keep it as long as possible.”