Tour de France
Nairo Quintana crossed the finish line safely in...

To Movistar, ‘safe’ feels like a victory

It wasn’t a win, but it sure felt like one. There were plenty of smiles, high-fives, and hugs around the Movistar bus after riders survived a Sunday in hell.

ROUBAIX, France (VN) — It wasn’t a win, but it sure felt like one. There were plenty of smiles, high-fives, and hugs around the Movistar bus after riders survived a Sunday in hell.

Finishing equal on time to the main GC rivals for Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana and staying even in Sunday’s bash-fest across the pavé, it felt like one.

“It was almost like a victory to get all three across the line today with all the favorites,” said Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué. “To leave here still ‘alive’ is so important for us. To be at the front all day was truly impressive.”

There was a collective sense of relief. Even if the team lost key pavé helper José Joaquín Rojas in an early crash and later saw Mikel Landa go down in a heavy fall, Movistar knows it’s still in the game.

“We overcame the day, and we were very attentive as a team,” Quintana said. “We saved the day, and we’ve managed to avoid troubles and now we’re getting closer to the mountains. I lost some time on the first day, but I hope to recover that in the mountains.”

When the dust settled off the cobblestones Sunday, Movistar was in an enviable position. Valverde and Quintana finished in the front group, and Landa came through just seven seconds back.

It was “mission accomplished” for the Spanish “blues” who were quietly fearing this stage.

There was a sense of jubilation knowing that their three-card option is still very much in play.

Landa crashed hard with about 30km to go when he took his hand off the bars to take a drink and hit a hole in the road. Movistar later sent Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti back to help pace him back to nearly the tail-end of the group, losing just seven seconds to the GC favorites.

“So far, so good,” Landa said. “We’ve managed to save the day every day, including today. Seven seconds for me isn’t so much when I could have lost a lot more. I am happy with how the first part of the Tour has wrapped up on a good note.”

Movistar sees Valverde near the top of the leaderboard, and Landa and Quintana in solid position. Even if Quintana lost time on the first-day mechanical, the team leaves the cobblestones in the rearview mirror with the steep climbs of the Alps looking deliciously on the horizon.

“It’s a shame about what happened to Landa. He’s beat up but I think he will be OK,” Valverde said. “‘Chapeaux’ to the whole team today. It was a key stage today and now we are all optimistic about where we are on GC. Now we are riding into ‘our’ terrain. We can hope for the best.”