Nairo and Movistar Team are ready for the Alps // Photo: ©

15/07/2016, PROSPORTS Journal Jaune

Hope in the Alps

Nairo Quintana enters the final week of the Tour de France with an uphill battle. Sitting in fourth place some three minutes behind the Maillot Jaune, the Colombian climber and Movistar Team have put their sights and hopes on the Alps. While some critics may have written Quintana off, the Canyon Team Liaison Manager, Andreas Walzer, thinks the race is far from over.

Daily echelons, a Sagan/Froome sprint stage breakaway and the already iconic image of the yellow jersey running up Mont Ventoux: This year’s Tour de France has delivered on surprises.

An unfortunate surprise has been Nairo Quintana’s seeming inability to attack Froome in the Tour’s early mountain stages. “From the beginning of the slopes of Mont Ventoux it was clear that he had problems and wasn’t able to get up front and get ahead” says Andreas Walzer, former cycling pro and Canyon Team Liaison Manager.

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Threat Level Red for Nairo

The stages thus far have not been tailor made for a pure climber like Quintana. “The stages have been extremely windy. For over 150 km at a time the riders were battered by side wind after side wind. For Nairo, who only weighs 60 kg that means he is at threat level red the entire time and in a constant state of stress.  The lead up to Mont Ventoux, even though it was completely flat, had to cost him twice as much energy as it would have to just ride uphill.”

After the time trial on Friday, Nairo was finally able to take a deep breath, shake things off and focus on the remaining week of the tour. “Until now [the time trial] I wasn’t convinced of Nairo’s fitness. However, he has the incredible ability to lay it all down in the last week of a grand tour and I think he will. On the other side, you’ve seen Froome and Team Sky’s approach of getting ahead at the beginning and then defending though the end. They've shown their cards and that keeps me optimistic”, says Walzer.

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A Chance to Attack in the High Mountains

“On Wednesday things will really get started with the mountain stage to Finhaut-Emosson and its over 10km of 8% climbing. Then the stage on Friday to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc is similar – very steep and relatively long. Nairo will have his best chances to attack there.”

Up to the Mountain Time Trial

The two Alpine stages book end Thursday’s mountain time trial. Walzer figures there is a 50:50 chance to make time back on the day. “Whoever has the best form on the day will decide whether time is won or lost. The course is admittedly difficult, but with the flat start and only 600 meters of climbing it likely won’t be very selective. I think that on a good day Nairo could take time from Foome there.”

Looking at the whole picture, Walzer draws a positive conclusion: “The last week of the tour is incredibly difficult, Nairo can still win time back and with Valverde he has the best possible support for the job. On top of that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tour with so many surprises. It feels like anything could happen and I think we can still dream of a yellow jersey for Nairo.”