With one final Pyrenean stage left to race, the Colombian and his Movistar team are hoping Thursday’s crash won’t derail plans for a high-mountain assault on Friday. Quintana wasn’t severely injured but was disappointed by yet another setback in this Tour.
“It’s a shame to have suffered this fall; one way or another, it seems like I’m always a bit screwed,” Quintana said. “I have bruises on my ankle, my shoulder, and also a finger that was already hurting in yesterday’s stage. The race doctors put gauze on but until I clean up and shower and see what the team doctors say I won’t know 100 percent whether my injuries are minor or not.”
The Colombian fell before the halfway mark of stage 18 in a mid-pack pileup that also saw Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) go down. Quintana emerged from the incident with a bloodied left arm. He spent some time receiving treatment from the medical car before rejoining the peloton and then stayed safe and upright through to the finish in Pau.
“It was a hard, hot day, with an average speed of 45 or 46 kilometers an hour and everyone tired. For Nairo to crash like he did on top of that, that’s hard,” said Movistar director Eusebio Unzué. “Let’s hope it’s just something superficial and he can rest well and be ready for tomorrow in top condition.”
The crash marked another frustrating moment for Quintana in what has been an up-and-down Tour. The two-time overall runner-up rode through a frustrating first two weeks of the race, losing time in stage 1 after breaking a wheel late in the day, but he proved to be rounding into form with his stage 17 victory. Although he was sitting too far down in the general classification to pose much of a threat to yellow jersey Geraint Thomas (Sky) or Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Quintana delivered an impressive attack early on the brutal finishing climb and soloed all the way to the line. The performance was his first Tour stage win in five years.
Currently fifth overall, he looked like a strong bet to factor again in Friday’s last mountain stage of the Tour, which features tough climbs like the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque. Despite Movistar’s struggles in the battle for yellow this year, the team is well-built to contest the stage win high up in the mountains, with Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde leading the way.
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It remains to be seen how much Quintana will be able to contribute to those plans after his crash.
“Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious with Nairo and we can do the stage as we hope,” Landa said. “Tomorrow is our day and we’re entering in our terrain.”
With no more mountains left to climb in this Tour after the stage 19 finish in Laruns, Friday is the last chance for the uphill specialists to make their mark on this race. Even if the yellow jersey is effectively out of reach at this point, Movistar is not hiding its aspirations for lighting up the Pyrenean finale.
“Let’s see if we can turn the race upside down,” Landa said. “This heat, we’re starting to feel it and tomorrow it will be a factor. We’ll try to shake up the stage from far away because that’s the only card we can play.”
Andrew Hood contributed to this report from Pau, France.