Saturday, January 21, 2017

Down to eight riders after the abandon by Alex Dowsett, whom some stomach problems suffered from last night put "the final nail in the coffin", as explained by himself, to a suffering more than a week long caused by wounds and injuries from his crash on stage four, the Movistar Team did not lose courage and willingness to turn things around in the final Tour de France stage in the Pyrenees this year.

 

 

The 195km journey from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille (HC), including the previous ascents of Portet d'Aspet (Cat-2), la Core (Cat-1) and Lers (Cat-1), passed by with no big moves -a 22-man move dominating the scene- until the big favourites started attacking race leader Chris Froome (SKY) into the second half of the decisive climb. 

 

 

While Gorka Izagirre, riding at the front almost from the very start, took his heart out so as to lose as little terrain as possible with the strongest riders into the break, closing the stage in a notable 4th place -around 4'30" behind winner Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT)-, the telephone squad went on the attack with its two GC references after protecting work by Anacona, Castroviejo, Herrada, Erviti and Malori into the approach.

Two moves by Alejandro Valverde with 7km remaining anticipated the first attack by Nairo Quintana in this year's 'Grande Boucle', both able to derail Porte (SKY) from the leading train and force team-mate Geraint Thomas to go after almost half a dozen attacks from the Blues, which the GC leader himself had to follow later on. Eventually, Valverde led the favourites' group home in 9th spot -with Nairo Quintana in 11th-, which keeps both in 3rd and 4th overall -the Colombian still in the lead of the young riders' competition- and caused a significant move as Movistar jumps onto the lead of the teams' classification in the Tour de France, with just over five minutes on the Sky team.

The Tour convoy now faces a series of four stages that will take it into the Alps following the second rest day; the first one, the 13th in the race programme, will finish in Rodez after 199km with several small climbs in the finale, most notably the non-rated La Primaube just 10k from the end.

REACTION / Nairo Quintana: "It was a good work from everyone in the team. A difficult day, with really demanding climbs and, above all, serious temperature changes and rain in the finale. It took even more energy from us, but we stood it and attacked the leader several times. Sky managed to control all of them, as well ours as the ones from Alberto, Vincenzo... they dominated the situation pretty well and have shown to be strong, as well Froome as his team-mates. We'll keep dreaming and trying; there's still a long way to go and everything won't be decided until the final mountain stage. I feel well at the moment, we're as strong as in previous days; I think my level shouldn't go down in what's left in this Tour, and should I keep it like today, I think we can try some good things until Paris. There's much to cover, we lost some ground already, but there's some good condition we'll use to keep fighting till next Sunday."

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