Colombian rider from Movistar Team finishes 2nd to Urán (EFD) at penultimate stage’s uphill finish in Salento, wears pink with one day remanining towards Manizales
Following his 3rd place on Friday’s explosive finish up El Tambo, Nairo Quintana again showed his excellent form coming into only his first race of the 2018 season at the Colombia Oro y Paz. The ‘Cóndor’ from Boyacá and the Movistar Team took over the GC lead after stage five -163km from Pereira to a difficult, narrow climb in Salento-, where he placed 2nd behind fellow countryman Rigoberto Urán (EFD).
Quintana only had to play his cards inside the last three kilometers after the Movistar Team completed an excellent job, following the moves before the first ascent with Dayer Quintana and pushing with Pedrero, Anacona and De la Parte before the dangerous descent leading the bunch to the last climb, a downhill Nairo covered within the first five of the GC group -20 riders, including the Blue leader and a notable Richard Carapaz-. A flurry of attacks, including Quintana himself, eventually dropped back then-GC-leader Alaphilippe (QST) and left only four local riders at the front heading into the final kilometer: Nairo, ‘Rigo’ and Sky’s Egan Bernal (3rd) and Sergio Henao (4º).
The GC remains incredibly close, with Quintana, Urán (+3″), Henao (+4″) and Bernal (+9″) all within a win-bonus’ reach before the toughest, decisive stage in the Oro y Paz race. 184km await the riders from Armenia to Manizales, with the climb of Boquerón (Cat-3) prior to the long showdown -19km uphill, with slopes up to 9% near the finish- towards Torre Chipre.
REACTION, Nairo Quintana:
“Our idea was completing the first climb with only a small bunch at the front, so it could be less dangerous as we took on the descent. After that, the only thing we had to do was keeping an eye on our rivals’ move, play our cards well and try and go for the win. Salento was a climb more for ‘puncheurs’, it didn’t really suit my condtions, and it’s quite different to the finishing one tomorrow – but still, we had to give it a try. As I always say, every time I line up for a race, I’ve got an excellent team by my side, and the boys did an amazing job from start to finish, all the way to that final climb. We had to chase the win to pay them back.
“At the sprint I through Sergio would launch his move earlier, but he was a bit boxed in against the barriers. I was maybe a bit too optimistic with my sprint, though Rigo is a more powerful rider for such finishes anyway, and he bested me by a bit. Happily, those bonus seconds got us to the GC lead. Tomorrow? We all, myself and the team, will have to make a great compromise to defend that jersey. We’ve seen Egan’s great work to help Sergio out today, so one would expect that Sky won’t make things easy for us tomorrow, and neither will the other teams. The break will also try go get close to the finish with a chance; plus, there are many teams who haven’t got a win and there’s only Sunday’s stage left – we just can control the race until we run out of energy, keep a good pace on the climb and watch those attacks to defend ourselves and keep this jersey with us at the end of tomorrow.”