Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana could have suffered from the classic dilemma of a half-empty or half-full pint glass after stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana, where they gained time on arch-rival Chris Froome (Team Sky) but were gapped by an inspired-looking Fabio Aru (Astana). But instead the two Movistar leaders both preferred to take away some positive conclusions from the 2015 Vuelta's first big mountain stage.
After a considerable spell of hard work by their Movistar teammates on the approach roads to the Alto de Capileira and its lower slopes before Astana took over, the two crossed the line in seventh and eighth place on the stage, seven seconds behind Aru (who also gained a four second time bonus). On the plus side, they were 27 seconds ahead of Froome.
“Twenty-something seconds on Froome is a good chunk of time,” Quintana said, “and we’re still in the fight. Ok, Aru has got away from us, but we’ve both gained time [on some rivals] and lost it on the others, we’re in a good position.”
Quintana argued that after a strong attack by the Colombian on the first mountain top finish and a stage win for Valverde on stage four at Vejer, Movistar would have to start changing its strategy.
“We’ll have to alter our tactics a bit, because our rivals are basing their strategy on what we do,” he claimed. “There are two of us, and we have to start racing on the attack - one day one of us, one day the other - in order to start gaining time on our rivals.”
Quintana was not surprised, in any case, at Froome’s difficult day, putting it down to exceptionally hot conditions rather than anything more serious.
“I knew it could happen, to him or to me, when we’re racing in temperatures like this. I think he had a bad day because of the hot weather," Valverde said. "I had no idea of how Froome was going, because he was always behind me.
“Aru is clearly a tough rival, but there’s a long way to go and we [Quintana and Valverde] came through fine.”
Quintana’s ability to see the bigger picture, even after 200 kilometres of hard racing and an hour long final climb, once more shone through during the interview. Ever mindful of social questions in his country, Quintana used the interview with a South American journalist to send a message of solidarity to those Colombians affected by the currently ongoing humanitarian and political crisis on the country’s frontier with Venezuela.
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