Nairo Quintana’s yellow jersey dreams faded on the slopes of the Tourmalet on Saturday. The two-time overall runner-up was dropped from the GC group well before the summit finish of stage 14 of the Tour de France, unable to stay with a hard tempo set by his own Movistar team.
“Nairo was not at his best, but we didn’t know. He didn’t say anything,” teammate Alejandro Valverde said.
Movistar looked primed for a banner day at the Tour, hammering over the Col du Soulor and continuing to set the tone with a strong contingent of riders leading the way near the midway point of the final climb. With the likes of Andrey Amador and Marc Soler to push the pace and Quintana, Valverde, and Mikel Landa lurking, the Spanish squad gave every indication of planning a high-mountain raid.
Some 10 kilometers from the finish line, however, Quintana drifted to the back of the group and thene lost touch, even as his own team hammered away at the front.
“If we had known he was going badly, we wouldn’t have worked like that,” Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué told Cyclingnews. “Our idea today was going for a stage win and to see how things were going with the big names, because we hadn’t seen anything since the Planches des Belles Filles.”
Although Movistar’s pace-setters eased off after Quintana was dropped and Soler went back to help him, the Colombian was unable to make his way back to the group. Quintana finished 3:24 down on stage winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
Quintana said after the stage that the injury he sustained in a crash on stage 11 had “something to do with” his underwhelming performance on the Tourmalet. Quintana dropped down to 14th overall, 7:19 behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), after stage 14.
His teammate Landa fared better. The Spaniard finished sixth on the day, 14 seconds behind Pinot.
Quintana seemed content to give his support to the aspirations of Landa and Valverde moving forward.
“We continue with Mikel and Alejandro,” he said. “Right now they are in front of me and we have to support them.”
Landa’s GC hopes, however, are quite distant at this point. He moved up seven spots in the general classification with his stage 14 ride, but he still sits just outside the top 10 in 11th place, 6:14 down on Alaphilippe, having lost over two minutes following a late crash on stage 10.
Landa said after the stage that he is hoping to battle for a stage victory as the Tour continues to race through the mountains into the final week.
“I would like to try for stages with opportunities where riders who have lost time will be allowed to go up ahead,” he said. “This race can still take many turns, I’m excited.”
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