Nairo Quintana (Movistar), already a winner of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, promises to “give everything” until the 2019 Vuelta ends on Sunday. The Colombian jumped up three spots to second overall with a powerful move in the fierce crosswinds to Guadalajara on Wednesday.
The riders face stage 18 today, one of two mountain stages remaining in the Vuelta as it heads towards Madrid. Quintana now, in his his move from sixth place to second, trails leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) by 2-24 minutes.
“I have always said, we will give everything until the end,” said Quintana.
The small feather-weight climber finished twice second to Chris Froome in the Tour de France and overthrew him to win the 2016 Vuelta. Showing his grit, he fought over 219.6 kilometres of mostly flat roads.
“It is a joy to be able to ride a stage like, which is an anti-Nairo stage, a flat stage, with a lot of wind, but we have known how to defend ourselves,” he added.
“I gave everything not easy to keep up with these riders who weigh 70-80kg. The team protected me and we went into the stage expecting this, and everything turned out great.”
The fight was a Formigal moment: the short mountain stage in 2016 that Quintana used to upset Froome and turn the Vuelta’s tables.
Three years later in stage 17, Quintana had team-mates José Joaquín Rojas, Nelson Oliveira and Imanol Erviti along for the ride. World champion and team-mate Alejandro Valverde missed the move and slid from second to third while watching Jumbo-Visma and Astana try to come to terms for its leader Primož Roglič and Miguel Ángel López.
“We are all fighting for everything,” Valverde said. “I didn’t pull once all day. I was just following the wheels.
“Tactically, we are in perfect position going into the mountains. These efforts are going to pay at some moment.”
Red jersey Roglič showed some chinks in his armour. The same Roglič cracked in the Giro d’Italia this May and missed his chance to win his first Grand Tour.
“The idea was to weaken the leader’s team and move ahead, we are in the fight for the red jersey,” Quintana said. “We are there in the fight, the option of winning the race is reborn.”
Quintana won the second stage of the Vuelta with a strong move over the closing line to the finish in Calpe. However, he revealed that he has been suffering from a cold since.
“I hope to recover soon for the crucial days ahead,” he said. “Clearly when the legs are tired, I’ve pedalled with my heart.”
The Vuelta marks the last grand tour for Quintana in Movistar’s blue colours, next year moving to French team Arkéa-Samsic.