Just one day after Nairo Quintana (Movistar) proved he was on the rebound in the Vuelta a Espana with a driving attack at Alto de Campoo, the Colombian made a less successful effort to maintain his upwards progress at Sotres summit finish.
Quintana’s lone charge out of the pack some 9km from the finish at Sotres briefly looked as if he could leave race leader Fabio Aru (Astana) and the rest of the field out for the count. Instead, the Colombian’s move slowly petered out, and after team-mate Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) had sucked the life out of a lone bid for a stage win by Trek Factory Racing’s Haimar Zubeldia, in the final blaze of attacks, the Colombian and his co-leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) raced much more defensively.
Sixth in Alto Campoo, but the first of the favourites to reach the line, this time round Quintana finished fourth, a better placing, but 15 seconds down on Rodriguez. Tied on time with Aru at the finish, he remains in ninth place overall.
Given Quintana was weighing up abandoning just a few days ago with a severely upset stomach it was hard not to be impressed by the Colombian’s determination and ambitious long-distance attack, and in a remarkably short space of time, the Colombian has returned to the gc fray with a vengeance. However, Movistar’s hard work and QUintana’s gutsy early gamble did not pay off with a stage win, and Valverde, meanwhile, slowly but surely faded out of the front line of attackers to finish 29 seconds back, dropping from seventh to eight on gc.
“I’m just tired,” Valverde told Spanish tv at the finish, before explaining that the Tour “and the pressure to get on the podium there”, as well as a long season was taking its toll. “There’s been a lot of racing this year, I’ve already got a stage win [at Vejer de la Frontera] and you can’t alway be where you’d like to be [overall].”
“It’s been a good year, and my congratulations to all those who are ahead of me overall. There’s a long way to go yet to Madrid, but it’s going to be difficult to win.” He also thanked his team-mates for their “very hard work, finally it was up to us [himself and Quintana], Nairo tried, but it didn’t work out.”
Quintana, still recovering from his illness, was much more upbeat. saying, “I’m pleased that I’m back at my former level in such a short space of time. After being so ill and thinking of abandoning the Vuelta, to do what I did yesterday (Saturday) and today (Sunday) has real merit.”
“I have to thank the team for working so hard and believing in me. Once again they drove hard all the way to the finish so we could try to pull back time in the battle for the podium. And if I can’t make it, we’ll try with Alejandro.
“We tried to go for it in the stage, but another rider [Rodriguez] was stronger. At least we’ve taken back some time on [Tom] Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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