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Giro d'Italia

Banged-up Quintana hoping to recover on Giro rest day

Nairo Quintana is hoping Monday's rest day will help him recover and allow him to go on the attack in the Giro's decisive final week

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Nearly midway through the Giro d’Italia, the peloton is battered and bruised. Nasty weather and crashes have turned the corsa rosa into a race of survival.

Monday’s rest day couldn’t come a moment too soon, especially for Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Many expected to see the Colombian sensation make a move in a pair of mountain stages over the weekend, but instead he seemed to be fighting to limit his losses.

“I didn’t have the legs, and I could not follow (Domenico) Pozzovivo when he attacked,” Quintana said at the start line Sunday at Sestola. “I arrived with the favorites, and didn’t lose time. Just one more stage.”

Quintana has not been able to open up his engine after a heavy fall last Thursday left him shaken. He suffered cuts and abrasions all over his body, including gashes to his elbow and right knee, and his small frame is still struggling to recover from the controversial crash.

“I am feeling a lot of pain, especially when I try to make an effort and go on the attack,” Quintana continued. “My injuries are affecting me. I don’t feel as strong as I’d like to be. The rest day will come at a good moment to allow me to recover.”

Movistar made the surprise decision to send Quintana to the Giro, with the idea of racing to win, rather than send him back to the Tour de France to face off against Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

This Giro is also allowing Quintana the chance to race as an outright grand tour leader for the first time, but things have not gone as well as Movistar had hoped. The squad lost time in the opening time trial, when Movistar raced on wet roads, and then Quintana crashed hard Thursday on the road to Montecassino.

Race leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is certainly keeping a close eye on Quintana, one of the most dangerous rivals to the veteran Australian who carries the pink jersey into Monday’s rest day.

“After the first two days in the mountains, it’s too early to say who’ll be strongest at the end of the Giro. Quintana hasn’t been as strong as we expected, but I think he’ll get there,” Evans cautioned. “Last year, he went from Liège to the Tour de France without racing, and was second overall. This year, he’s come into the Giro without racing while awhile, but I expect he will find his legs.”

After nine stages, Quintana is sitting discreetly in ninth at 1:45 back, and with the hardest climbs still to come, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to attack.

Transition stages Tuesday and Wednesday should give Quintana and the other injured riders a chance to regroup going into Thursday’s decisive, 41.9km time trial at Barolo.

Quintana is solid against the clock, and the rolling course across the Italian wine country should help him limit his losses against the favored Evans.

If Quintana can stay within striking distance of Evans, the Giro could become very interesting. The first major mountain stages are looming next weekend, with a trio of mountaintop finales that will go a long way toward deciding who can win the 97th Giro.