A fever has cost Nairo Quintana valuable time in...

Quintana tumbles down Vuelta GC with fever

The two-time Tour de France runner-up is now more than 3 minutes out of first in the Spanish grand tour.

The peloton couldn’t believe it. On a relatively easy third-category climb early in Friday’s stage, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), one of the world’s best climbers, was getting dropped.

Quintana drifted off the back of the pack and piled up alongside the Movistar car. It appeared that the two-time Tour de France runner-up might be abandoning. Instead, Quintana was encouraged by staffers and teammates to continue. He eventually overcame his crisis and was able to finish the stage safely with the main pack.

Quintana remains in the Vuelta, for now.

After going deep in the Tour de France to finish second behind Chris Froome (Sky), Quintana did not race since July and was hoping to ride into top form during the first half of the Vuelta. Just days before the difficult Andorran stage, however, Quintana came down with a fever and struggled to match the accelerations from Astana in the decisive, six-climb stage.

“I feel empty,” Quintana said after Thursday’s stage. “I’ve been suffering with a fever. I almost stopped twice [Wednesday].”

Incredibly, at the finish line Friday, Quintana insisted he was feeling better, and even expressed optimism for the looming climbing stages in Asturias.

“I didn’t start off so good today,” Quintana explained. “But as the day went on, I started to feel better, and thanks to the help from my teammates, I was able to finish the stage in good condition.”

Riding with a fever, Quintana tumbled out of GC contention in Andorra, and then slipped to 11th at 3:07 back on Friday after some riders in the breakaway moved ahead of him.

“Now we are arriving to the important mountain stages of this Vuelta,” he said. “Now that I am feeling a bit better, I hope to prove it tomorrow, but we’ll have to see how the body responds.”

Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde isn’t faring much better, admitting he is feeling “tired” from the efforts of the Tour.