Quintana’s win in Valencia throws some light on his chances of getting the Giro-Tour double
On the face of it, Nairo Quintana’s GC win at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana looked narrow, and even comparatively soft. He edged out Ben Hermans of BMC, a good rider but not the calibre of opposition he’s going to face as he tackles an optimistic Giro-Tour double attempt. The final gap between them was 13 seconds. Nothing for Nibali, Aru, Froome et al to worry about in the Grand Tours.
However, Quintana was competing in the five-day stage race having ceded a head start of one minute – his Movistar team having conceded 62 seconds to BMC in a 38km opening team time trial. Movistar only came fourth in the test, also conceding time to Sky (who were 21 seconds behind BMC) and Quick-Step Floors (who lost 49 seconds). Both teams had strong climbers in Wout Poels and Dan Martin respectively, so Quintana could have been forgiven for not focusing too hard on the GC. However, the Colombian started to chip away at his disadvantage immediately. Tony Martin, riding for his new team Katusha-Alpecin, won the next stage solo, but Quintana was in a group of six more riders who’d opened up an advantage of eight seconds on the main group. That took him up to 10th place in GC already, 54 seconds in arrears, although with four Quick-Step riders, four BMCs and a Sky rider still ahead of him, he looked outnumbered.
Quintana did the rest of the job on the steep Mas de la Costa summit finish on stage four. He attacked on his own, and nobody could even think of following. In just four kilometres, he opened a 40 second gap on the eventual stage runner-up, Merhawi Kudus, 48 seconds on Poels and 1:07 on Martin and Hermans, who had started the day as strong favourites to win the GC. Other established Grand Tour favourites were even further back: Steven Kruijswijk, who was one piece of bad luck from winning the Giro last year, conceded 70 seconds and Ilnur Zakarin lost 1:25.
Quintana has set himself one of the toughest challenges in cycling – the GiroTour double, and he hasn’t even won the Tour before. He was chastened by his defeat at the Tour last year, but galvanised by his Vuelta win. The double looks impossible, but he has won five of his last seven stage races (Catalunya, Romandie, Route du Sud, Vuelta and Valenciana) and finished on the podium of the other two (Basque Country and Tour). Nobody can argue with his consistency or potential brilliance – two things he’ll need for this ambitious double.
Quintana clawed back a large de icit to take a win in Valenciana