Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has said that he will continue to battle for the overall classification following his victory on stage 17 of the Tour de France. The Movistar rider climbed up three places to fifth overall following his solo break on the shortest stage of the Tour, but still lies 3:30 down overall.
Quintana has endured a largely disappointing Tour de France, which began badly when a mechanical on the opening stage lost him significant time. The Alps, normally a good hunting ground for him, saw him lose yet more time as he struggled to match the pace of the other contenders. There were signs of a revival into Mende last Saturday, and Quintana showed that it wasn't a one-off with a lengthy attack on the final climb.
"All that I can say is that we will keep fighting. Of course, winning the GC is difficult now but we will make the race as hard as possible and see how far we can go. I have to say thank you to Alejandro Valverde, he was a great help. This victory gives us confidence for the rest of the Tour de France," Quintana said after the stage.
"It is a great victory and it is not only for me but for my team. We have been working hard and fighting throughout the Tour de France. We are a great team, but things didn't quite work out as we expected. We have made the race a little bit harder, and we were able to achieve this great victory."
With his teammate Alejandro Valverde still up the road after getting into an early break, Quintana followed a move by Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) with just under 15 kilometres remaining. Quintana quickly dropped Martin and headed up the climb in search of Valverde, picking off other members of the early break as he went. With 12 kilometres to go, he was with Valverde, and the elder rider helped set a pace high enough to build an unassailable advantage.
After dropping Valverde and collecting the last of the previous escapees, Quintana was alone with more than six kilometres still to go but managed to maintain more than a minute of an advantage over the group of favourites behind. His ride was barely recognisable from the Quintana of a week ago, languishing off the back of the bunch on the higher slopes of climbs. The win has given him a much-needed confidence boost.
"It was a stage that we had marked out and that I had prepared for very well," said Quintana. "I'm sad that I did not have good sensations in the days before, my body didn’t have great sensations and I lost quite a bit of important time. I wasn’t feeling great. Fortunately, the good feeling has returned to my body and I will continue believing."
While Quintana was out front, his rival Chris Froome was in trouble. The Team Sky rider lost 1:35 on Quintana, and more importantly gave away 48 seconds on yellow and slipped from second to third. Froome is currently attempting to do the Giro-Tour double, something that Quintana knows all too well how difficult it is to achieve. Quintana agreed that the back-to-back Grand Tours could be taking their toll on the defending champion.
"Yes, it is possible. After all, he now has a lot of racing in his legs and we are now in the third week of the Tour de France," he said. "The Giro was really hard and it must surely take its toll on Froome, even if he had an extra week to recover. If he is struggling because of this then maybe we can take advantage of it."