OK, it’s not the Tour de France, but a time trial victory anywhere is a big deal when you’re a Colombian climber.
A day after his heroic breakaway effort, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won a short but morale-boosting race against the clock Friday to take the overall lead at the four-day Route du Sud in southern France.
“I was a bit tired, but my legs really went well today,” Quintana said. “I hadn’t really worked that much for TTs, just what I thought I needed to reach the two time trials in the Tour de France in a good position. Let’s just hope these efforts don’t do bad on me before tomorrow’s mountains.”
As Quintana mentioned, the course turns into the high Pyrénées in Saturday’s queen stage that should decide the GC. If the opening two days of racing have been an indication, Quintana is the favorite to win again.
On Friday, Quintana beat French time trial specialist Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) by six seconds in a 13km course in Albi. The win sets him up nicely for the Tour, which features more time trial miles than last year’s climb-heavy course.
Quintana will carry a comfortable lead into Saturday’s stage, with 11 seconds ahead of Chavanel. His closest real threat is Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo – Vital Concept) at 34 seconds. Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) will be aiming for the stage win, but he’s 56 seconds adrift, and Quintana won’t be in a generous mood for his final race ahead of the Tour.
Saturday’s 185km route tackles the Col du Tourmalet ahead of the summit finale at the Cat. 1 Couraduque.