PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France (AFP) — Nairo Quintana said he will keep fighting in the Alps but admitted Thursday that Tour de France leader Chris Froome and his Sky team are looking strong.
The 25-year-old Colombian was one of several riders to try attacking Froome on the stage 12 summit finish at Plateau de Beille but without success.
Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas worked extremely hard to chase down those attacks and Froome came home in a group alongside all his main rivals at the finish.
“It was a tough day with hard climbs but the most complicated thing was the change in temperature and the rain at the end,” said the Movistar leader who sits third overall at 3:09 while teammate Alejandro Valverde is fourth at 3:58.
“It cost us a bit of energy, but we tried to attack the leader on several occasions. Sky were able to control all the attacks, ours as much as Alberto [Contador] and Vincenzo [Nibali]. They dominated and showed they’re very strong, Froome as much as his teammates.
“But we’ll keep trying and dreaming. There’s still a lot to come, and until the final mountain stage we won’t stop.
“I feel good, we’ll keep going just like the previous days.
“Our level won’t dip throughout the rest of the Tour, and as long as we maintain this level I think we can do good things.
“There’s a long way to go, it’s true we’ve lost quite a bit of time but the physical condition is there and as long as that’s the case, we’ll keep fighting.”
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) said he was still searching for top form. “I’m happy, I’m getting better but I still don’t have the condition I’d like,” he said.
One of the riders who didn’t attack Froome was American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who is second overall at 2:52. However, he is riding for a podium finish in the hope of bettering his fifth places from 2012 and 2014. Froome is not on his radar.
“I knew Sky had a really strong team and were going to neutralize any of the attacks from all the dangerous guys,” said the 26 year-old BMC team leader. “So when they were jumping, I just stuck behind Sky to make sure they should pull them back.
“Hopefully those guys keep doing that and waste a few of their bullets, and then in the third week they might pay the price.”
It’s in the Alps that Van Garderen expects the true final selection to be made.
“I’m glad to have got through the Pyrénées but you still have a couple of tough finishes before we get to the next rest day,” he added, pointing to Saturday’s 178.5km stage 14 from Rodez to Mende finishing on a 3km, 10.1-percent climb.
“That climb to Mende, I remember racing that in 2012, man that thing’s steep!
“So there’s going to be a GC shake-up there, but right now I have my eyes firmly trained on the Alps.”