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
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