After an impressive first week of the Vuelta a España, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has recognised that his performance on the stage 10 time trial to Pau was a significant setback, with a greater time loss than he expected to new race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
Before stage 10's time trial, Quintana had repeatedly described Roglič as the virtual leader in the Vuelta, saying it would be extremely difficult to keep the leaders' jersey.
When push came to shove, though, Quintana not only lost the leader's jersey as well as the top spot in the points classification to the Slovenian, but time-wise he took a hammering, ceding more than three minutes to Roglič.
After falling 1:26 down at the first checkpoint, Quintana's disadvantage yawned to 2:12 at the second, and by the finish at Pau, he was a mammoth 3:06 down.
In the process, Quintana has now dropped to fourth overall, three minutes down on Roglič, but his Slovenian nightmare is far from over.
Quintana has Roglič's compatriot Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) closing in on him from behind, with just five seconds separating the stage 9 winner from the Colombian in fourth.
Quintana turned around almost as soon as he had crossed the line, looking for a place to warm down on the rollers behind the winners' podium. But, in less time than he lost to Roglič in the TT, he was surrounded by journalists looking for a quote to find out how the Colombian champion had fared so badly in the Vuelta's only individual race against the clock.
"It's not been a good day. I've lost more time than I expected. Two minutes would have been OK, but three minutes is more than I anticipated," Quintana said.
"Still, we'll have to fight back as best we can and see if we can attack Roglič in the mountains. It's our only option."
Quintana was guarded when asked about the perennial leadership issue within Movistar, given the seemingly changeable nature of the team's hierarchy at the race.
After his stage 2 victory, Quintana seemed to be riding for his own chances, but after the Alto de Javalambre on stage 5 he said he was working for Valverde. Then, on stages 7 and 9, he was once again ahead of Valverde on GC to the point of taking the overall lead.
However, following Tuesday's time trial, Valverde is now up to second overall, 1:08 ahead of Quintana and theoretically could take precedence.
"I don't know for now, we'll take it on the day by day," Quintana said. But as he underlined, "we have to attack Roglič."
After two transition stages, Movistar's first clear opportunity to do that will come during Friday's summit finish at Los Machucos. It's the same ascent where, at the 2017 Vuelta, Chris Froome, having considerably strengthened his lead at the La Rioja time trial, found himself in serious trouble.
Could history repeat itself in 2019?
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.