Sitting in his hotel room tonight, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will feel pretty pleased with how his Tour de San Luis has begun. After setting the third fastest time at the intermediate split, Movistar, helped greatly by the time trialling talent Adriano Malori, were coming back quickly in second half of the course. They were just edged out in the 21-kilometre test against the clock by Etixx-QuickStep but Quintana was happy to see that he had taken time out of his rivals on day one.
Quintana now sits just eight seconds down on the race’s first leader, Maximiliano Richeze, and in prime position to take over the lead when the race hits the mountains later on in the week. As the Colombian has learned in the past, it is often better to be defending a lead than to be chasing it.
“This is good for the team and it is really important to start in a position ahead,” Quintana said at the finish in El Duranzo, just before stepping on the podium with his team. “We couldn’t win but we went well, we are happy with the result. Now we can see that the work that we did in the winter has gone well and that we have a good start.
“I’m relaxed. I know the summit finishes coming and surely with the heat they are going to be really hard.”
After three days of lounging around the race hotel, the riders were happy to be finally racing at the Tour de San Luis. The road book showed what looked like a relatively flat stage but the riders knew from their recon the day before that what they would face was a much more challenging parcours. Despite the later start, they were greeted by temperatures nearing 40 degrees.
“It was a difficult time trial to manage, really hard and it was quite hot. The days that we have coming we will suffer just the same and the mountain still to come it will only get harder. We have opened a window on our rivals and this gives us peace of mind going into the rest of the race.”
Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team finished just 10 seconds behind Movistar with other pre-race favourite Rafal Majka a further six seconds back with his Tinkoff-Saxo and, while he is confident going into the coming stages, Quintana is also well aware of the danger they pose.
“I think that it is possible to win but there are teams that are just as good as us with really good climbers.”
The next two stages are unlikely to make much of a difference to the overall classification with the first summit finish to Cerro del Amago coming on stage four.