No cobbles and a mountain stage in the first week leaves Nairo Quintana happy with the Tour de France route, but he wishes there was a team time trial included
Movistar’s captain survived the pavé stage to Cambrai this year, but in a wind-swept stage two, he lost a precious 1-28 minutes when caught behind a crash along the Dutch coast to Zeeland.
The small five-foot-five climber pushed Sky’s Chris Froome to the limit. He dropped him the final Alpe d’Huez, but could not gain enough time and ended the Tour the next day 1-12 behind. Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde, in third overall, joined him on the podium in Paris.
And Quintana says that he has not issues about leading the team once more, with there likely to be less pressure on the team following their 2015 result.
He said yesterday: “Even though we saw last year that the pavé wasn’t a big disadvantage for us last year, not having it in 2016, combined with an ‘easier’ first week, will keep us under full focus, just like in every Tour start, but we’ll tackle it with more confidence.”
Adding: “Alejandro got the Tour podium he really fought for, and having him out of that same pressure will be a boost for me and the whole team.”
Team manager, Eusebio Unzué added: “There’s no TT prologue and the first week hasn’t got such nervousness we usually tackle in the Tour.
“It’s great to get off a bit of stress we suffered with the pavé, which was hard for both favourites and the rest of the peloton.”
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Movistar was sad to see ASO did not include a team time trial. Quintana, though a climber, regularly puts times into his rivals in the discipline thanks to a time trial-strong team that includes Englishman Alex Dowsett who made his Tour debut in 2015.
“What I really miss on this year’s route is the TTT,” Quintana said. “It really favoured us on previous editions, as we could fight for the stage win and take a bit of a gap over our rivals. It’s a shame we won’t ride it this time.”
ASO included a technical 37-kilometre time trial in the second week, the day after Mont Ventoux, and a mountain time trial to Megève in the third week. It takes the race through Spain, Andorra and back into France for the Pyrenees and sets its final chapter in the Alps.
“It feels like a different Tour, away from more classic approaches we’ve seen during the last few years. However, I’m still missing a team time trial. It’s not that it suits us well, rather than being a spectacular effort which a three-week stage race, which offers everyone a chance to excel. [They] shouldn’t leave out in my opinion,” Unzué explained.
“With the Massif Central on day five and the Pyrenees before the first rest day – those two big mountain days in Bagnères and from Viella to Andorra – it all really changes.
“Week two seems to be reduced to ‘only’ Mont Ventoux and the first TT, both of them will be really decisive with many of their 54km on uphill roads, while the final one includes lots of mountains, a symbol of the whole race this year.
“There are many deceptive stages, not finishing with a climb, but set to be really spectacular.”