BARCELONNETTE, France (VN) — Movistar still believes it can win the Tour de France with Nairo Quintana, but the team had other goals in Wednesday’s first of four stages across the Alps.
Goal number one was to push Alejandro Valverde into third-place overall, something made easier by the early abandonment of Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). And the second goal was to soften up Team Sky for the attacks that Quintana promises he has in his legs.
“It wasn’t a good stage today to attack from far away. Today the goal was to assure the podium for Valverde and for the team GC, so we can all be on the podium in Paris,” Quintana said. “There are longer climbs to take back time on Froome. I will keep trying.”
Quintana keeps believing, but maybe it’s turning into a dream.
Movistar did a good job tactically Wednesday, isolating Froome over the top of the Col d’Allos, and then slotting in riders from the day’s main breakaway. At one point, there were four Movistar jerseys, and two from Astana, against an isolated Froome. Yet when Quintana punched the accelerator twice on the final ramps to the finish line at Pra-Loup, Froome was able to quickly neutralize the aggression.
With van Garderen out of the Tour, Valverde slotted into third overall at 4:09 back, but admitted dethroning Froome could prove difficult.
“Froome is very strong. It’s going to be hard to beat him,” Valverde said. “We are content with how the stage developed today. We still have three hard days to try something.”
Quintana keeps holding out hope that he can deliver the knockout punch. Froome said he’s only concerned about the Movistar duo, meaning the full weight of Team Sky’s armory will be directed at them.
“The stage I like most is l’Alpe d’Huez,” Quintana said. “But I know if I want to win this Tour, I cannot wait until the final climb. I have to attack from farther away. We got rid of a few rivals today, and we wanted to wear down Sky today for the stages to come.”
The problem for Quintana is that this Tour is quickly running out of asphalt.