After he faltered on the queen stage of the Tour de Suisse on Thursday, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had no such problems on Friday's stage 7 ride to Arosa. The Colombian climber took a large chunk of time out of race leader Richie Porte (BMC Racing) after attacking with more than 25 kilometres remaining.
It was all part of an aggressive strategy from the Spanish squad, who sent Victor de la Parte up the road in the main breakaway. Mikel Landa also got in on the party when he briefly went clear inside the final 10 kilometres. Landa was brought back but Quintana stayed clear, with the help of de la Parte, to claim the stage win and put 22 seconds into Porte, in addition to the bonus seconds on the line. While it wasn't enough to take yellow from Porte, it gave Quintana some positive signs ahead of the Tour de France in just a few weeks.
"I wanted to see how my physical condition was and fortunately I felt good. The work of the team was really good with all of us pushing right from the start," Quintana said after the stage. "We put Bennati up to pull on the flat and to keep the breakaway close, and to help the attack of Victor to bridge across. De la Parte was fundamental in the false flat, pulling until he'd done all he could. Until the final, I gave it all that I could with Mikel, behind, attacking and breaking the rhythm of BMC, just like I asked him to.
"The whole strategy worked well. It is a double joy for me and the team; today is the birthday of our directeur Jose Luis Arrieta and I would like to dedicate the victory, and also to my teammates for their great work."
With the pair set for joint leadership at the Tour de France, the Movistar bosses will have been relieved to see just how heartily they congratulated each other for their efforts after the finish. Quintana, who started the day 45 seconds down on Porte, has cut his deficit to just 17 seconds and now sits second overall, while Landa has jumped up to seventh place. There is still an individual time trial to come, not the favoured terrain of either rider, but it has given Quintana a confidence boost.
"It is important for your own body, and for the team, to know that you are going well ahead of the Tour," said Quintana. "Today, we wanted a make it a big test and on Sunday we will have another. We will have to ride strong on the flat, defend ourselves and do the best that we can. These nine days of competition give us more time to spin [the legs] and I believe that it will give us more luck for July."