Gracias, señor Quintana.
We learned a few things at this Tour de France.
One, it’s impossible to piss off Chris Froome. Throw urine, spit at his face, toss doping accusations at him without proof, punch one of his teammates, make him sleep in French hotels, jam a stone in his brake and a bag in his derailleur, it doesn’t matter.
Froome is mentally impervious to attack.
The second thing we learned — and thank God, because without Quintana, the Tour would have been dull — is that he’s a man of his word. He and his Movistar teammate Valverde had second and third pretty locked up but he still hit stage 20 and Alpe d’Huez with fury. He was prepared to win Tour or Die Tryin.’
He had an extremely difficult task — make up three minutes on a single stage to win the Tour de France. He was realistic enough to tell the press he only gave himself a 10% chance of taking yellow. He gave it 110% and impressed the Hell out of anyone watching.
It would have been acceptable if he’d just put in a hard dig or two on Alpe d’Huez and then rode tempo with Froome to the finish. Instead, with Valverde going all-in to help set up the action and teammate Winner Anacona waiting up the road, Quintana launched attack after attack until he finally broke free.
He said he would attack in the French Alps and he did. He said he’d leave everything on the road up to Alpe d’Huez and he delivered. He opened up a thirty second gap and kept pushing until it went out over a minute.
Froome admitted he was on the limit for most of the final climb of the Tour. It’s a fair question if he would have lost another 30 to 60 seconds if his teammates Richie Porte and Wout Poels hadn’t been strong enough to help him keep fighting. Yes, big money and super-domestiques come in real handy in a crisis.
In our estimation it was the only exciting mountain stage of this year’s Tour and Quintana was the man with all the dynamite. Stage winner Thibaut Pinot of FDJ made France proud but it was Quintana that captured the attention of the cycling world. Without him, Froome cruises through the Alps without any real worry.
This year’s route with its one short time trial was made for a pure climber like Quintana. What will happen when the longer test against the clock comes back to next year’s Tour? He’ll have to get better or Mr. Froome will still have the overall advantage.
One thing we know: if Quintana says he will improve his time trialing, then that’s pure fact. He’s a man of his word.