At last, finally, where have ya been, señor?
Missing at the Tour de France, where Nairo Quintana barely got off one attack against Chris Froome in three weeks, the Colombian finally re-asserted himself at the Vuelta a España. Hey, guess his timing was just four weeks off.
On a short, blistering stage 15 up to the summit finish at Formal, Quintana, with inspiration from the aggressive and desperate Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), launched a surprise attack pretty much from the start gun. The cojones belong more to El Pistolero but Quintana was quick to see the possibilities and went all-in.
The normally hyper-organized, all algorithms mapped Team Sky was caught off guard and Quintana was up the road one minute, then two, then two and a half. Nearly the entire Sky squad was sitting at the back of the peloton and was quickly out of contention. In fact, they all finished outside the time cut and should have been DQ’d.
It was like Movistar almost kicked Sky out of the race while adding several minutes to Froome’s red jersey deficit. By any measure it was one of the most exciting stages of any grand tour this year — and once again, the Vuelta delivers where the Tour often underwhelms with careful, conservative racing.
Movistar gets the gold star award for smashing Sky in the face, knocking out the entire train and pretty much erasing Froome’s hope of winning a second grand tour in one season. It was the Helta Skelta Vuelta — unpredictable, crazy and dramatic.
While admitting that his chances for overall victory were severely dented, Froome insisted he will continue the fight and look for every opportunity. So we’re about to be treated to a rare grand tour scenario — and angry and demoralized Sky attacking like a crazed junkyard dog.
This year at the Tour de France, Froome pulled his own surprises — attacking on a descent, stealing seconds in a flat stage sprint and riding with opportunistic aggression. He also displayed his guile and willingness to abuse an unwritten rule of cycling — witness his fake nature break on stage 12 after a Simon Gerrans crash took down several of Froome’s teammates. By slowing the peloton down to wait as Froome finished up his pretend pee break, he allowed his mates to rejoin him at the front of the race.
Which tells us that Froome is willing to do whatever it takes to win. (See also Quintana, 2014 Giro d’Italia, kinda-sorta-not really neutralized stage.) In other words, raging Sky, Helta Skelta Vuelta gets even more loco.