With Quintana in control, San Luis podium spots become battlefield

Nairo Quintana appears secure in San Luís, but nine men will battle for the overall podium on the race's last day in the mountains

SAN LUIS, Argentina (VN) — With two summit finishes and a time trial completed, the general classification of the eighth Tour de San Luís has taken shape.

By displacing race leader Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) in Friday’s 19-kilometer time trial, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana has moved into the race lead, and will almost certainly win the overall.

The Colombian climber, best young rider at the 2013 Tour de France, leads Gaimon by 26 seconds, with another nine riders within three and a half minutes; the fight for the podium is the most interesting battle remaining.

Of those nine riders behind Gaimon, three are Argentinean, three are Colombian, and two are American.

Sitting third and fourth overall, respectively, are Argentinean riders Sergio Godoy and Enzo Moyano, both of the local San Luís Somos Todos squad. Godoy finished second Thursday on the summit of Alto el Amago, 50 seconds behind Quintana, while Moyano finished fourth, 1:39 down.

Fifth overall, 2:47 down, is UnitedHealthcare’s Marc de Maar, who rode with Gaimon on the stage 1 breakaway until the American followed a pair of race motos off course with 20km remaining, unintentionally putting de Maar onto the ground. De Maar finished 13th on Alto el Amago, 3:43 behind Quintana.

With a solid time trial on Friday, BMC Racing’s Peter Stetina moved up to sixth overall, 2:57 off the lead, while his teammate Darwin Atapuma, who had been sitting fourth overall after placing third on Alto el Amago, conceded nearly two minutes to Quintana and slid to ninth overall, 3:21 behind. Stetina finished seventh on Alto el Amago, 2:31 behind Quintana.

Stage 2 winner Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) sits seventh, 2:59 down, with Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) eighth, at 3:13. Atapuma is ninth, with Colombia’s Miguel Rubiano in 10th, at 3:30.

Eleventh overall is American Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare), who finished fifth on stage 4, 1:45 behind Quintana, and is now 3:32 down.

In all, that’s nine riders separated by 1:31 heading into stage 6, which finishes on the 7km Mirador del Sol climb, which rises 1,837 vertical feet at an 8.75-percent average gradient.

“It looks like everyone is separated by about 10 or 20 seconds,” Stetina said. “It really just comes down to sprinting those final kilometers [on Saturday], and that will settle it.”

If the time gaps on Mirador del Sol climb were to play out similarly to the Alto el Amago on Thursday, the final podium will likely be Quintana, Godoy, and Moyano.

Gaimon, who lost over four minutes to Quintana on stage 4, will do what he can to remain on the podium after leading the race for four days.

However it plays out, for Quintana, the best climber in the race, it should be a fairly relaxing day.

“I’m tackling that final mountain stage in a different way than I expected,” Quintana said. “I had to attack [on stage 4] to win, but now we’ll be racing in a more defensive way, letting a small break go away and responding to attacks that will certainly happen into the final ascent.”

For the ten men battling for the remaining two podium spots, it will be an uphill battle — literally.