Vuelta a Espana: Quintana takes it steady after losing mountain duel

Movistar keeping close watch on Froome's rising form

Vuelta a España leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) said that despite losing against Chris Froome (Sky) on the Peña Cabarga ascent he remains fully optimistic about his chances in the longer term battle.

Quintana and Movistar made much of the running on the early part of the ascent, and when Quintana loped away, passing and catching Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), Froome was determinedly sticking close.

Then on the final sweeping left hand bend, Froome first quickly passed the Colombian then powered ahead for a stage win, a time bonus, and what must represent a big boost to his morale.

Having lost six seconds to Froome in the Vuelta on the other short, ultra-steep ascent to Ezaro on stage three but then gained time on the Briton on the longer Camperona and Lagos de Covadonga climbs, Quintana was his usual phlegmatic self when discussing his first direct mountain top defeat by Froome in this year's Spanish Grand Tour.

"It was a very fast climb and we realised that Froome was going very strongly," Quintana said later. "We will have to watch him closely. "

"I'm good, we have arrived together with Froome. He won the stage because he was faster than me at the end. I still think he's strong."

"We can't be distracted because there are some difficult stages ahead where there will be a battle. Sometimes it's difficult to think about what Froome will do because he has different strategies. We'll see how strong he is in the long mountain stages."

His teammate Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) described himself as very satisfied despite Froome taking the victory. "Ok, he's won, but we were up there with him," Valverde, third on the stage and now third overall, said afterwards. "We were finally second and third, so we can be pleased with that."

"My legs are going well, I'm suffering, but at least they're responding."

Vavlerde was also also about the ongoing issue of power meters and he claimed that his comments "had been taken out of context. Nobody said they were bad, or anything like that. Simply I wanted to say that with them, everything is much more controlled - breakaways, performance - but I'm not saying they're bad, not in the slightest."

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