Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana brushed off setbacks at the Volta a Catalunya with a reconnaissance of the Pyrénéen stages they’ll face in this summer’s Tour de France this week.
Valverde crashed out of the Volta while wearing the leader’s jersey and Quintana lost out on a podium place, but the pair was back at work preparing for this summer’s major goal.
The pair joined Movistar sport director José Luis Arrieta to recon the two decisive Pyrénéen stages, set for July 6-7, finishing at Ax 3 Domaines and Bagnères de Bigorre, respectively.
“Though we have raced in the Pyrenees many times, there were climbs like the two ones on the first day, Val Louron and the Hourquette, that I didn’t know, so it was good to know perfectly what we’re going to tackle this July,” Valverde said on the team’s Web site. “I’m fully recovered from Catalunya’s crash and I’m feeling well on the bike. Now I’ll be racing at Estella, Rioja, and Amorebieta before the classics.”
On Monday, the pair explored the Ax 3 Domaines finale, including three early climbs and the 15-kilometer ascent up the Pailhères climb. On Tuesday, they rode the five climbs featured in the Bagnères de Bigorre stage. Before returning to the team’s center of operations in Pamplona, they also scouted the Formigal finish line where stage 16 of the Vuelta a España will conclude.
Bolstered by a stage win at the Volta last week, Quintana is poised to make his Tour debut this summer and the recon trip gave the young Colombian a taste of what lies in store for him.
“It was important to recon these stages to get used to what we’ll find in July. I didn’t know the climbs and I quite liked them. All of them have steep slopes and some, like Pailhères, are rather long; that suits me,” Quintana said. “There’s still a very long way to go, many months, but doing this recon makes me even more excited towards my Tour debut. That’s the dream of every single cyclist, and also mine.”
Quintana and Valverde have become fast friends and often room together at races. Valverde will be aiming for the Tour podium in what is an ideal parcours for the Spanish climber.
Valverde said the two Pyrénéen stages could prove decisive in the battle for the yellow jersey.
“Any of those two stages might become decisive because both are quite hard. Though everything will be left to the finale on stage eight, the road before Pailhères is also difficult and the group will be really stretched,” he said. “It will be the first mountain stage in this year’s Tour de France and that makes it even more dangerous. The second one is not so long, but there isn’t a single meter of rest. It’s gonna be a fast, nervous one, and if you have a bad day there …”
For the remainder of the week, Quintana and Valverde will join Movistar teammates to practice team time trialing before racing in this weekend’s Spanish races, with Valverde starting the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday and Quintana racing in the Tour de Rioja on Sunday.