Where were the searing mountain attacks in Andorra from Movistar’s Nairo Quintana? Chris Froome’s most dangerous rival spent the day firmly stuck.
All the way up the long, torturous, rainy, hailstoned climb, the Colombian was content to simply stick to Froome’s wheel, never once turning a pedal in anger.
Plenty of critics wondered about the absence of attacks from Quintana, when his Movistar squad gave the impression that the big summit finish in the Pyrenees would be the place for fireworks — was it just too wet to light the matches?
It’s a fair question given that after last year’s Tour de France, Quintana admitted that perhaps he shouldn’t have waited until the final week to erase his time gap to Froome. He pulled back a minute on Alpe d’Huez but it was simply too little, too late, no yellow.
Yeah, it was cold and miserable and there were golfball-size hailstones raining down on the riders. That didn’t stop BMC’s Richie Porte from trying his luck. Irishman Dan Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) hit out repeatedly in an effort to jump ahead of Froome and gain the maillot jaune. Even the kid, white jersey leader Adam Yates, launched an attempt.
Meanwhile Nairo Quintana was permanently stuck, glued solid to Froome’s rear wheel. What did Quintana have to lose in venturing a quick counter attack? Wasn’t it worth at least a quick stab, a probing foray, a show-me-what-you-got acceleration?
This much was clear — everyone was on the limit including Froome, who had run out of teammates and had to respond to every attack himself. He expected an attack from Quintana — considering it almost inevitable — and yet nothing happened.
After the stage, Froome seemed to suggest that Quintana didn’t lack motivation, he was simply in the red, mazed out and unwilling to try something foolish. The argument was that hey, Quintana was only 23 seconds off Froome and in the brutal, backloaded Tour, all chips would go on the table late in the game.
Sure, we get that, makes perfect sense, hard to argue the logic. However there have been two surprises in the Pyrenees on consecutive days. First, Froome’s improvisational attack on the final descent yesterday that gained him valuable seconds in surpassing the Colombian. Then today, it was the lack of attack from Quintana, who had his summit finish and decided not to put the mountain to good effect.
We’ll certainly see Quintana light the fireworks in the Alps but right now he’s all glue.