Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has been threatening all week to do something serious in the final two mountain stages of this year’s Tour de France. He was finally able to put some distance between himself and Chris Froome (Team Sky) during stage 19 but it, perhaps, wasn’t what we had all hoped. A huge cheer ripped through the Colombian contingent of the press corps when Quintana made his move on La Toussuire, but he could only manage to take back 30 seconds, a minor dent in the more than three-minute deficit to Froome.
“We attacked looking for the best moment to get good time and to distance Froome but it wasn’t enough for what we thought. We were missing the finishing touch,” a disappointed Quintana said in the mixed zone after the stage. “We did what we could and Froome is very strong. At least we’ve tried.”
Even with a few bonus seconds for taking the runners-up spot on the stage, Quintana remains 2:38 behind Froome in the overall classification with just the punchy stage to Alpe d’Huez left. At just 110 kilometres, we can expect there to be action from the start – as we saw on stage 19. Quintana famously put time into Froome the last time the race visited the Alpe, after the Sky rider suffered a hunger flat. With that in mind, he’ll go into the final mountain stage with confidence, but he’ll need much more than the 1:06 that he took on Froome on that occasion.
Quintana, however, is not ready to call a cease fire just yet. “We will come back to try and give it our all,” said Quintana. “I’ll try again tomorrow from further out, let’s see how strong he is then. We’ll try for the stage win at least.”
As Quintana tried to take the fight to Froome, his teammate Alejandro Valverde found his podium position under attack. Valverde went into the day with a comfortable cushion over Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), who had been in fourth place. The Welshman faded and in his place was a revitalised Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The Italian won the day, gaining 2:26 on Valverde and putting himself within touching distance of a podium position, with only 1:19 now separating the pair.
“We hoped that Sky would neutralise Nibali’s attack but they weren’t interested. We controlled it a little and Saxo helped and it was quite hard at the moment he attacked,” said Quintana. “Nibali got away today, but I’m sure Alejandro Valverde will be able to handle him in the battle for the podium.”
Movistar will also be looking to keep hold of their position at the top of the team standings, which they lead by a pretty luxurious 51 minute advantage over second place Tinkoff-Saxo.