Quintana marks himself out as Tour de France favourite
If Alberto Contador and Chris Froome were on another planet at the Vuelta a Andalucia last month, then in what galaxy does one place Nairo Quintana after this Tirreno-Adriatico? The Colombian’s clinical disposal of Contador atop a snowy Monte Terminillo was a cold reminder that the Tour de France will not be a two-man battle. Indeed, given the mountainous parcours, Quintana is the perhaps the outstanding favourite for top honours in July.
Calculations of Froome’s power output at the Ruta del Sol raised eyebrows, but considering the difficulty of the route and the calibre of his opponents, Quintana’s display on Monte Terminillo was, on sight at least, the most impressive by a Tour contender so far this year. One acceleration was all it took for Quintana to ease clear of Contador et al with four kilometres remaining, and he scarcely relented all the way to the summit as he pulled away to win by almost a minute.
Fantastic four showdown fizzles out
Tirreno-Adriatico was expected to be the only time the big four would go head-to-head before the Tour de France, leaving ASO struggling to hide their envy. Only Quintana appeared to be on true Grand Tour form and deservedly earned the crown of current Tour favourite. Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome were left facing questions about their training and spring preparation.
Froome opted not to start Tirreno-Adriatico because of a last minute illness, Nibali was nowhere near his Tour de France winning level and reportedly two kilogrammes above his race weight and at 9 per cent body fat instead of 6 per cent. He has confirmed he will ride Milan-San Remo before a much-needed block of training at altitude and the Ardennes Classics. Contador had a bad race right from the opening time trial and was unable to go after Quintana on the steady slopes of Terminillo. He was even unable to drop riders fighting for a top ten place. Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis refused to reveal to Cyclingnews what was wrong but both Contador and Froome will need to show signs of progression at the Volta a Catalunya next week if they are to stop the questions.
There are constant calls for a season-long narrative and more head-to-head battles between the big names to help market the sport. Fortunately this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico showed that professional cycling is still wildly unpredictable but much more fascinating as a consequence. (SF)
Is Cavendish hiding in the hope of winning Milan-San Remo?
Mark Cavendish claimed he did not know how well he will recover from the efforts of riding a wet and cold Tirreno-Adriatico and what form he will have for Milan-San Remo.
He started Tirreno-Adriatico still suffering from the effects of a violent stomach virus picked up during a sponsor trip to South Africa and the tough racing left him fatigued. He was unable to contest the sprint finishes after losing his chain in the final metres in Cascina on stage two and then attacks by Tinkoff-Saxo spat him out of the peloton on the rain-soaked sixth stage to Porto Sant’Elpidio.
Tinkoff-Saxo won the battle that day but Cavendish moved quickly to turn the table on a major rival and loaded the responsibility for controlling Milan-San Remo onto the shoulder of Peter’s Sagan’s team. Milan-San Remo is the race that really counts and Cavendish seems ready to use every possible mind game and tactic to give him a chance of winning on the Via Roma.
The Manxman and his Etixx-QuickStep team are keeping their cards, information on their true form and especially on their race tactics close to their chest. We will probably only know their plans when the race unfolds on the Cipressa and Poggio as the team also has Zdenek Stybar and Michal Kwiatkowski. Both are on form, allowing Cavendish to save every drop of energy and power for a possible sprint finish.
Cavendish’s lack of results and fatigue could be a real concern and could affect his chances of winning Milan-San Remo for a second time but they could also be a foil to deflect attention and allow him to fly below the radar until he emerges, tucked over the bars, sprinting to victory up the Via Roma. (SF)