Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) has taken over the lead in the Vuelta a España after today’s stage which finished at the summit of the gruelling Alto de La Camperona. The Colombian rider left his rivals behind in the last three kilometres of the incredibly steep slopes of the final climb of the 181-kilometre stage from Villalpando.
Quintana’s Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde maintained his second place overall, and now sits 19” behind his team-mate while Chris Froome (Team Sky) is 27″ down with Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 57” in arrears. Previous race leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing Team) slipped to 6th overall and is now 1’36” down on Quintana.
Up ahead of the GC contenders, the stage win was contested by a breakaway group with Sergey Lagutin (Team Katusha) proving strongest as he finished 10″ clear of Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) and Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) a further 7″ down.
José Herrada, Rory Sutherland and Imanol Erviti led their Movistar team-mates on the run-in towards the climb, while Jonathan Castroviejo, Rubén Fernández and José Joaquín Rojas kept the group strung out through the 5km section between the foot of the ascent and the start of the steepest part of the climb, after the village of Sotillos.
As Froome and race leader Atapuma (BMC) struggled, Valverde moved to the front of the group to try and make things harder for the Briton. Froome would bridge back and eventually caused a split with the Sky leader, Contador and Quintana, as Valverde was struggling behind.
Quintana was next to make a move and soon opened a considerable gap, which grew to 25” over Contador on the line, 33” to Froome, Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Valverde. The Colombian now wears the red leader’s red jersey for the second time in his career.
Nairo Quintana: “The smile I carried through the finish line was just a grimace of pure suffering. But happily, we achieved our goal of the day. This was my main expectation for the day: trying and putting some time on our rivals. We started, however, those steep slopes of La Camperona with much caution; we were waiting for Froome’s attack, which obviously came, and we had energy enough to respond to it.”
“I was coming to this Vuelta with lots of ambition, like in every single GT I start, but it always boosts your confidence to see you’re a little bit ahead of your rivals for one day.
“It’s never soon to get a leader’s jersey: it’s better to be ahead with a few seconds than trying desperately to make them up from behind. The GC is looking quite sorted out, which is reasonable, taking into account that we’ve raced really fast over the week, with demanding stages which take its toll in finishes like today’s.”
“From now onwards, with such a strong team that we have, I’m sure I’ll defend myself well, starting off with tomorrow, when we will wait and see how things go.”
Alejandro Valverde: “What else can I ask for in this race? I’ve spent many days on the fight, I’m still in 2nd overall after a demanding finish, I’ve contested the stage wins many times… and now we’ve got Nairo in the lead, and should he need any help, he’ll find it from myself.”
“I’m super happy with the result up to this point. It was actually a bit of my task into the steepest part of the climb, pulling so the pace didn’t stop into the first kilometre. We really hit the front hard in the beginning of the ascent, as we tried to avoid any crashes nor troubles.
“Froome upped the pace at a certain point – he’s one who really develops a plan, riding by his own pace and knowing where he can go full-gas – and Nairo reacted really well, countered and grabbed some nice seconds. He rode really well. Some interesting days are ahead for us.”
“I’ll try to profit from any chances I find, while I help Nairo chase his goal. I’m satisfied with the fact that I’m here, in this Vuelta, after two GTs, in such a good position. And while it lasts, I won’t stop going.”