3/21/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!
Quintana triumphs on Vallter 2000 summit finish
Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2013
Valverde takes over GC lead
Nairo Quintana prevailed on the mountain top finish of stage 3 at the Volta a Catalunya, giving Movistar a one-two finish for the day as Alejandro Valverde secured second place six seconds later ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) on the frigid summit of the Vallter 2000 ski resort.
Valverde moved into the race lead with four seconds on both Wiggins and Rodriguez while Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) holds fourth overall at seven seconds. As expected, overnight race leader and winner of the first two stages Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was not a factor in the Volta a Catalunya's first foray into the high mountains as he finished more than 14 minutes off the pace.
Quintana's first victory of the 2013 season did wonders to assuage the disappointment from his recent performance at Paris-Nice.
"This victory is a boost for my morale and confidence," said Quintana. "I hoped for this victory to come since I started my season in Andalucía, and especially in Paris-Nice, where a crash prevented me from getting a better result and left me sad."
Victory on the Vallter 2000 summit was a matter of patience for the 23-year-old Colombian as he and his Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde withstood attacks from Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), then Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and finally Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in the approach to the finish.
"There was a strong headwind at the top of the climb and our strategy was waiting for that very last moment to attack," said Quintana. "The attack by Wiggins took the speed up and it was really good for us to know the climb, since we knew that the hardest point came at the end of it.
"I saw a good moment to attack and it was just when Purito made his move, but I didn't see him because I jumped earlier, as soon as I saw the turn where I had thought of attacking. I had good legs and could keep the speed until the end."
Early break neutralised on final climb
The final member of the day's early breakaway, Cofidis's Nicolas Edet, who had been away with Martin Kohler (BMC), Karol Domagalski (Caja Rural) and Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Cannondale) since kilometer 7, was just being caught by the Sky-led chase group with 4km to go on the finishing ascent when Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) escaped out of that lead group and towed Edet away on a flatter section of the climb.
The duo stayed together for 500 metres, but Edet could not match the pace of the Belgian as the road kicked up again and was dropped for good. With 3.8km to go, Van den Broeck had 10 seconds on the large peloton. That lead grew up until the 2km to go mark when Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) brought the lead group back to Van den Broeck and then launched an attack of his own.
The surge began to quickly reduce the chasing peloton as one by one riders were spat out the back. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) took responsibility for the chase, bringing back the Garmin-Sharp American with Wiggins on his wheel.
Wiggins put in his move with 1km to go, but was quickly marked by Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), the Tour de France champion's surge having caused the lead group to implode.
Only a dozen riders were in the lead as Quintana made his move in the final turn with Rodriguez not able to hold the Movistar rider's wheel. Valverde rode the Katusha rider's wheel to the line and came around Rodriguez to take second, with Wiggins fourth on the stage.
"I kept attention on Purito, because I knew he was going to give it a try, but Nairo was wise and anticipated his move," said Valverde. "Even though we're all on the limit in such stages, my legs were rather good. It was a perfect day for us with my leader's jersey and Nairo's victory. I'm as happy with him winning as if I had won the stage myself, because it's his first this season, and I think it will be really important for him."
Valverde, the 2009 Volta a Catalunya champion, now holds the leader's jersey with an even more taxing day in the mountains on tap for Thursday. Overall victory is still very much up for grabs as 11 riders are within 35 seconds of Valverde on general classification.
"Tomorrow's stage is gonna be a really, really hard one, more than today," said Valverde. "We'll be reaching heights over 2,000 meters above sea level again and the finish is steep, especially after a 217-kilometer stage. We'll see how it all ends."
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Photo credit © Pasados de Volta