After losing teammate Alejandro Valverde to a broken patella on stage 1, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) passed his first Tour de France test without his super domestique. The climb to the citadel of Longwy was never going to prove decisive but the general classification riders risked losing ground in the explosive finale, where Peter Sagan emerged victorious.
Second at the Giro d'Italia in May, the stage was Quintana's first climbing test in racing since his podium, and the Colombian explained he was glad to have made it through a 'stressful day' without any time loss, finishing safely near the front of the main peloton.
"It's beautiful to see all the Colombian fans supporting us at both the starts, finishes and the whole route. It's really charming," said Quintana. "We got through a dangerous day, one with a lot of stress, and that’s the important thing in the beginning of a Tour de France. Thanks to the support of the whole team we got safely through the day, and I finish really calm about all we did today."
The 27-year-old crossed the line in 11th place, tied on time with his major GC rivals, and improved his overall position from 48th to 21st but remains 48 seconds behind yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
Movistar's José Luis Arrieta explained that with the GC and sprinter teams all wanting to be in position for the closing 40 kilometres, it made for a stressful finale and was happy to see his riders handle the situation.
"It could have been a day way calmer than we had, but we were also keeping in mind that there would be some battle early in the stage for the breakaway," Arrieta said. "Then in the finale, with all the GC teams trying to keep their leaders at the front and other ones, like Bora, fighting for the stage, we were obviously in for a fast finish. There was lots of stress, all riders trying to get into good position so as to avoid any splits. Happily, Nairo could get through the day thanks to good team effort. The guys did things perfectly to keep him safe and in good position."
Stage 5 to La Planche des Belles Filles is the first summit finish of the race. It is the third time the climb has been used by the Tour, but will be the first time for Quintana. For Arrieta, Tuesday's flat stage to Vittel will be about recovery before focusing on the stage 5 finale and the objective of limiting any possible time losses.
"Our tactics for Wednesday? It should be the same as in the previous few days; to be honest, our only goal in this first week is not losing the race," he added. "Froome, on the other hand, will be looking forward to claim his first stage win this year, but the other contenders might try to give it a shot, too. I'm sure we will see all of them battling for the day's honours."
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