Nairo Quintana put on a brave face as he warmed down by the Movistar bus after Monday's team time trial at the Tour de France, but the raw figures speak for themselves. After just three stages, the Colombian has a deficit of more than two minutes.
Quintana knew he was always likely to lose time in the TTT, with the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky), Richie Porte (BMC Racing), and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) all stronger time triallists in stronger teams. But unlike teammate Mikel Landa, who seemed fairly happy with things at the end of the day, Quintana had already started more than a minute down after his mechanical on the opening stage.
Movistar were among the early starters and completed the 35.5km course in Cholet in a time of 39:40, putting them in 10th place, 54 seconds down on stage winners BMC and 50 seconds down on Team Sky. Quintana now lies 59th overall, 2:05 down on third-placed Geraint Thomas, and more than a minute down on all the other general classification contenders.
"It's never nice when you lose time, but as far as bad days go, it wasn't too bad today," Quintana told reporters in Cholet.
"The hardest part was the first part, so that favoured us a little. The other half wasn't so favourable. It was much faster and required much more power. We managed to limit the damage with dignity."
Indeed, Movistar's ride really was a tale of two halves. At the first intermediate checkpoint, after 13km, they were just one second down on Team Sky. In the space of the 20 subsequent kilometres, they shipped nearly a minute.
With eight-man teams and four needed to cross the line together, Movistar had the complication of keeping three leaders and non-specialists safe, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde being their other cards for the yellow jersey. While the rouleurs of the team such as Imanol Erviti, Daniele Bennati and Jose Joaquin Rojas were able to deliver a strong start, the climbers were relatively exposed by the end.
"It was always going to be hard – it was a course clearly made for the big time trial specialists. We coped well with the first part of the course, which was the hardest, and the slowest. And we came through that on a par with the best teams," said Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué.
"What happened then was that in the second part, which was flatter, and in the third part, when we'd already lost Imanol [Erviti] and [José Joaquin] Rojas, we struggled. That's logical – on the fastest part of the course we had to make do with our less powerful riders. The last five or six kilometres were between 60 and 70km/h. We ended up with five riders and three of them weigh 60kg."
While Quintana lies more than two minutes adrift – even if that hides the fact that the gap to Froome is just over a minute – Landa can take a more 'glass half full' view of the same time trial ride.
The Spaniard is two seconds ahead of Froome, 50 seconds off Thomas, with Tom Dumoulin and Bob Jungels the only other GC riders more than 20 seconds away.
"With respect to Froome, it couldn't be better," Landa said "What he lost on the first day, he recuperated a lot today, but not all of it. I'm happy with how things are at the moment."
As for Quintana, he understandably can't wait for this unruly and largely flat first week of the Tour to be over.
"We have to be aggressive and keep fighting, and wait until the mountains," he said.
Frustratingly, the sanctuary of the first rest day is still six stages – not to mention 15 cobblestoned sectors – away.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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