The Power of Two
Both Quintana & Valverde remark Movistar Team’s solidness and their own bond and strength as main advantage for them – now sitting as 1st and 3rd in the Vuelta- before a really demanding second week of racing.
Zaragoza held the first rest day for the whole convoy of the 2014 Vuelta a España on Monday, after nine tough stages that brought impressively good results for the Movistar Team. The squad directed by Eusebio Unzué already took two stage win -the opening team time trial in Jerez and the uphill finish in Cumbres Verdes (Valverde)- as they lead both individual (Quintana) and team standings as well as the Combination classification, with Valverde on top.
However, and as expressed by its two leaders during a multitudinous press conference today, maximum caution is needed against many top rivals ready to go on the attack, plus a really demanding parcours in the second week of racing, starting tomorrow with a hilly, 37km ITT from Vera de Moncayo to Borja -Valverde will start at 16.48 local; Quintana, last as GC leader, will roll off the start ramp at 16.52-.
Nairo Quintana: “I wasn’t really thinking about taking the lead yesterday. I thought I would snatch the leader’s jersey during the last week, where I think I’ll be doing better and the team will perform at its best into the mountains. The opportunity to take it just came along by the race situation, but I’m not leading by a huge gap either. I made slight improvements in my TT performance and I think I’ll be close to the competition tomorrow; should I lose any time, it’s obvious that it will be because they’re better specialists than me on time trialling – I don’t think I’ll lose much, though. I’m having good legs by now and I hope to keep them that way tomorrow and ride to my best. Let’s hope temperatures are a bit more ‘normal’ in the upcoming days, neither too hot nor too cold. We’ll fight to keep the jersey until the end if everything goes right, but we know it won’t be easy by any means. Still, we’got a strong team and that keeps us calm for what’s to come.
“We knew that many things our rivals said before the race were just words, with no value. The reality was what we all could see in the last few days: every single favourite who came to this race was at 100% before starting the race. We saw yesterday who will be the real GC contenders: we had the strongest favourite, Contador, doing really well; despite his crash in the Tour, he might be doing even better than we could predict, though I already thought before the race he’d be the biggest favourite, and I’m not mistaken up to this point. Then, there’s Purito, who’s also showing great form, and also Froome, whom we’ll see how he does tomorrow in the TT so we can predict how far he can get in the race.
“We’ve got a race strategy – which we obviously won’t be sharing in public – but our main strength and advantage is that we are two. It will be a bit more difficult for our rivals – we know we must be intelligent and play our cards in the most appropriate moments, both Alejandro and I. The important thing for us is having the team win the race. We must keep our commitment, stay calm and profit from every chance, though the last week will be more demanding and might probably be decisive. Still, anything could happen.”
Alejandro Valverde: “Tomorrow’s TT is a very tough one. The first 11 kilometers are really difficult, with many pace changes. It’s not a steady climb, and it’s really hard in the final kilometers. The rest of the parcours goes through windy roads, which favour a TT specialist. Froome might be a strong rival, maybe the strongest candidate for the stage win, but I think as well Nairo as myself and many other contenders might be in the mix and do well. Still, it doesn’t matter what result we get – we’ll keep fighting to win the Vuelta and let the fans enjoy. The most important thing for us, above all, is to keep enjoying with what we do and achieve: me, Nairo and the whole team. We came into this race with a clear idea in mind, which was winning the Vuelta, and at the moment we’re in first and third place. We’ve got a strong team for the two weeks left in this race and we’re stronger than our rivals, since we’re two.
“I did struggle a bit in the first days like the others with heat in the South, but maybe a bit less than them. However, yesterday’s switch was a sudden one: in just one day, dropping from 40-42ºC to just 10-12ºC and rain – it made us feel like it was even colder than real. The body and the muscles felt it more. Let’s hope it doesn’t affects us in the next days nor in the rest of the Vuelta. [Asked if rivals might have hidden their real condition before the Vuelta] Purito never did: he always told everyone he came here to do really well and try and contest the Vuelta win – same goes for Froome. Alberto was the only one of the top guns not coming here, but he did at the end; he might have felt ready and chose to come. Already since the first day he was doing strong, really attentive, and now it’s more than confirmed – to me, he looks like the strongest rival.
“Now it’s time for the hardest part of this year’s Vuelta. Tomorrow’s TT, after a rest day, might become a strange one, since you don’t really know how your body will respond to the efforts. After that, we’ve got three difficult mountain stages; the first one in Pamplona will be really hard. We must stay with the other rivals, but also thinking that this Vuelta is long – we must keep energy for the end and save our team-mates from unnecessary efforts.”