BOURG-SAINT-ANDÉOL, France (VN) — Nairo Quintana starts Friday’s 37.5-kilometer time trial off-balance and against the ropes, with his yellow jersey dream hanging in the balance.
The Colombian climber could see his Tour de France hopes take a fatal blow against Sky’s Chris Froome in a critical moment of the race. Quintana was unable to attack Froome in the wind-shortened Mont Ventoux stage, and ceded more ground when he hoped to recoup lost ground. Depending on how he can recover from Thursday’s chaos, the Movistar rider will likely lose even more Friday in an important race against the clock.
Following the drama on Ventoux, Quintana starts the time trial third at 54 seconds back, arguably still within range, but he faces the prospect of taking on more water in the hilly and technically challenging stage 13 race against the clock.
“I am good where I am, a few more seconds from where I was against Froome a few days ago,” Quintana surmised. “I hope to defend myself in the time trial.”
Quintana could cede another minute or more Friday, a difference that would make the final week of the Tour even more complicated.
Movistar has been betting on keeping Quintana close to Froome, and then have him attack deep into this Tour. They did the job on the flats, but Quintana was unable to answer Froome in the Pyrénées and at Mont Ventoux, and lost time against Froome’s unorthodox attacks on the descents and flats.
Thursday’s shortened climb up Mont Ventoux was not encouraging. After being battered by heavy crosswinds for two days, Quintana didn’t have his usual spark on the climbs. Quintana made two early surges at the base of Ventoux and seemed poised to make a run, but Sky, led by Wout Poels and Sergio Henao, quickly neutralized him. Froome then countered, taking Richie Porte of BMC Racing with him. Bauke Mollema of Trek – Segafredo later bridged out, leaving Quintana desperate to limit the bleeding.
The crash and ensuing chaos might have actually helped Quintana. Porte, Froome and Mollema were tangled up at about 1.2km to go, and judging by the rhythm they were moving, could have taken even more gains. The last time check before the incident was about 35 seconds. The revised official time had Quintana lose 19 seconds to Froome.
“I went too early when I attacked,” Quintana said. “There was a lot of headwind, they neutralized me, and I shot some bullets that I later needed. It was a hard day, with a lot of wind all day, with a high speed, and we arrived on the limit to the final climb.”
There was more confusion at the line at Chalet Reynard about time differences. The provisional results put Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange) into yellow, and Quintana third at 14 seconds back. A revision then put Froome back into yellow, with Quintana fourth at 1:01. A third and final decision helped Quintana, slotting him into third at 54 seconds.
If Quintana cedes another minute or more Friday, his “sueño amarillo” (yellow jersey dream) could remain just that, a dream.