STAGE 18

Pre-Tour, Mo­vis­tar looked the most likely to crack Team Sky. A poor start and safe tac­tics yielded scant re­ward for the Span­ish team. Pro­cy­cling asks where it all went wrong for their three lead­ers

Procycling - - CONTENTS - WRITER SAM DAN­SIE || PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BETTINI

Did Mo­vis­tar blow their chances?

On the eve of the Tour, Span­ish daily ElPais likened the Mo­vis­tar press con­fer­ence to an up­com­ing Three Tenors per­for­mance: in tune, and ready to belt out some big hits. “The im­por­tant thing is that a Mo­vis­tar rider is in yel­low in Paris,” Nairo Quin­tana and Ale­jan­dro Valverde said one af­ter the other. A re­porter asked who would be on the podium. “Nairo, Mikel [Landa] and then me,” joked Valverde. Quips aside, Mo­vis­tar looked, again, like the team most likely to break Sky’s hege­mony.

Yet on stage 1, dis­so­nant notes were al­ready creep­ing in. Quin­tana hit some road fur­ni­ture just out­side 3km to go and not one mem­ber of his team was there to help. He lost 1:25. On the TTT stage in Cho­let, the team bled 54 sec­onds to BMC. On the Roubaix stage, Landa crashed hard while tak­ing a drink. He lost a bit of time and a lot of form. But at least the moun­tains were com­ing.

Here are two Mo­vis­tar scenes. First from the Alps. On the stage to La Rosière, Mo­vis­tar’s wün­derkind Marc Soler made the early break and Ale­jan­dro Valverde punched away 3km from the sum­mit of the Col du Pré. The pair linked up and for a while Valverde was the vir­tual yel­low jersey. Yet the move fiz­zled out on the fi­nal climb. Valverde cracked and tum­bled out of the top 10. Quin­tana coughed up a minute and Landa al­most two. It was a spec­tac­u­lar back­fir­ing.

Scene two, the last moun­tain stage to Laruns in the Pyre­nees. Andrey Amador in­fil­trated the break and Landa bridged up on the Tour­malet. Amador re­layed him and for a time Landa was sec­ond on the vir­tual GC. Yet the Au­bisque loomed and it was a climb too far. The GC group bought Landa to heel and they took the des­cent to­gether. The tac­tics were tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient but com­pet­i­tively im­po­tent. They tried the same thing on the stages to Bag­nères-de-Lu­chon and Alpe d’Huez with less joy. Some­how, Mo­vis­tar need to take a leaf out of Lot­toNL-Jumbo’s book; they need to move faster and break more things.

This has a caveat. On the short stage to Saint-Lary-Soulon, Soler and Valverde got in the big es­cape, forc­ing Sky to limit the gap. Then Soler dropped back to re­lay Quin­tana’s group. At the foot of the Col de Portet, the Colom­bian traced Dan Martin’s at­tack and fi­nally moved clear. Tac­tics paid off, and a great stage win - just his sec­ond in five years - lifted Quin­tana to fifth on GC. Some­thing had been sal­vaged. On stage 18, Quin­tana crashed in an un­ex­pected mid-pelo­ton spill. TV cam­eras fol­lowed his progress at the med­i­cal car where his cuts and bruises were treated. “It’s a shame to have suf­fered this fall; one way or an­other, it seems like I’m al­ways a bit screwed,” he said. It summed up his race.

In Se­in­feld there’s a gag about the Three Tenors and how there’s Pavarotti, Domingo and “the other guy”. In Mo­vis­tar’s ver­sion it was dif­fi­cult to as­cribe roles. Quin­tana dropped from fifth to 10th in the fi­nal three days. Landa dropped from sixth to sev­enth af­ter the TT and Valverde slumped to 14th. Maybe it was Quin­tana and the other guys? Who wants tick­ets for their next con­cert at the Vuelta?

Landa had a day to for­get on the cob­bles and crashed hard while tak­ing a drink

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.