Like a seesaw, the fortunes of Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana shift one way and then the other. When one is up, the other is down. Try as they might, Movistar have been unable to get all of their Tour de France general classification riders enjoying a good day at the same time.
While Quintana flew to victory on the Col du Portet on stage 17, Mikel Landa was suffering. The shoe was on the other foot on Friday's final mountain effort to Laruns. Landa lit up the general classification battle with a long-range attack, while Quintana struggled to limit his losses on a brutal day in the Pyrenees.
Quintana's travails stemmed from his mid-stage crash on Thursday's sprint day into Pau. The Colombian had suffered several scrapes to his left side in the accident, but the impact of the fall left him with a sore body and he was unable to respond to the moves made by his rivals.
"The crash really bothered me today. I hurt all over, above all in my hip," Quintana said after rolling in more than seven minutes down on the stage winner Primoz Roglic. "I could not stand up out of the saddle. We continued to fight and I tried to minimise my time loss, and fortunately, we had Landa up ahead, working to the race strategy that we had planned, which was to attack, either me or him, on the Tourmalet and go ahead and see what happened.
"It was a really, really hard day and the inflammation after the crash affected my body a lot. I want to do a good time trial, to continue pushing myself in the discipline and, without a doubt, we will go to the end."
Landa did manage to get away on the Tourmalet, following a move by Ilnur Zakarin and his Katusha-Alpecin teammate Ian Boswell. They were soon joined by Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). Landa looked strong and attacked his companions further up the climb as they tracked down the remains of the day's breakaway, though they would come back together before the top.
With news that Landa was on the move, Andrey Amador dropped back from the breakaway to help his teammate. The Costa Rican helped Landa and his companions build a substantial margin of more than three minutes at one point, putting Landa on the virtual podium.
Landa dared to dream that he could pull this daring heist off but he would find himself back in the comforts of the bunch on the final climb of the Col d'Aubisque. He hung on through much of the descent but had no answer when Roglic went off the front.
"I had to try something, I had to try something from far out. The team did a great job, Andrey was incredible," Landa said. "I am really happy that I tried something. When I went on the Tourmalet, I knew that it would be very difficult, but in some moments I was thinking dreaming about the stage and also the podium in the general classification. The work that the team did was brilliant, particularly Andrey, who demonstrated that he is an impressive rider and a great person.
"It was a very difficult stage with descents that you had to give a lot on the pedals, breakaway companions that, at times, didn't give everything that they had, and then there were some big efforts to catch us on the Aubisque. On the descent, Roglic took a few metres and I was no longer able to contest the stage."
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