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With a powerful attack in the snowy and windy conditions, Quintana rode away from all his rivals to win the Tirreno-Adriatico queen stage and take the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

BAUKE MOLLEMA

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JOAQUIM RODRIGUEZ OLIVER

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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TIRRENO - ADRIATICO

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15.03.2015 @ 17:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) proved that he is back to his best after a slow start to the 2015 season when he took a dominant solo win in the highly anticipated queen stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. On the snowy climb of Monte Terminillo, he made a powerful attack with around 5km to go and constantly increased his advantage to win the stage ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and take the overall lead.

 

Tirreno-Adriatico was billed as the first big clash between all the grand tour titans but most expected it to come down to a battle between Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Sky). After all, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had shown poor condition in the early part of the race and Nairo Quintana hadn’t done any racing since the Tour de San Luis in January where he delivered a below-par showing.

 

With Froome having to withdraw two days before the start of the race, Contador went into the race as the overwhelming favourite. However, a poor performance in the prologue indicated that everything was not totally in order for the multiple grand tour champion and today that assessment was confirmed in the queen stage of the race.

 

Instead, it was Quintana who again emerged from his native Colombia in great condition as the Movistar captain put in a storming ride on the Monte Terminillo to take a hugely dominant solo win and move into a comfortable lead in the race. Despite crashing out of the Colombian Nationals and skipping the Ruta del Sol, the Colombian has apparently been able to train properly as he turned out to be in a class of his own in the snowy conditions on the brutal mountain.

 

A strong headwind made it difficult to make a difference and so the first part of the climb turned into a bit of a waiting game. While Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) and Michele Scarponi (Astana) fought hard to maintain an advantage as the remnants of an early breakaway, it was the tireless Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) who set the pace in a 25-rider main group with 8km to go. The Belarusian worked hard to keep the gap between 1.00 and 1.30 while everybody tried to keep their powder dry.

 

The action started with 7km to go when Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) launched the first attack. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) tried to chase it down but when he cracked, it was Mikel Nieve (Sky) who brought the Czech.

 

Nieve briefly set the pace before Gianluca Brambilla took over for Etixx-QuickStep. The Italian whittled the peloton further down while first Monfort and later De Marchi were dropped by Scarponi further up the climb.

 

Nibali had now dropped to the back of the group and was clearly in a lot of pain when Quintana suddenly made his move around the 5km to go mark. Surprisingly, no one even tried to follow him and he quickly got a big gap.

 

While Nibali was distanced, Contador made his first of several moves, followed by Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep). They nearly bridged the gap but never made the junction and instead Quintana again increased his advantage.

 

Bauke Mollema, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) joined Uran and Contador and later Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) also got across. As no one wanted to work, Quintana increased his lead and a bigger group that also included leader Wout Poels (Sky), gathered.

 

With 3km to go, Contador tried again but he was unable to make a difference. Meanwhile, Quintana had passed Scarponi and was now the leader on the road.

 

Pinot was the next to try a move but Contador shut it down. Uran moved to the front to set the pace but as no one was really committed, it opened the door for Mollema to take off. As no one reacted, he got a big gap and flew past a fading Scarponi.

 

Kreuziger went back to work in the main group while Yates attacked and managed to bridge the gap to Scarponi. Moments later, Contador tried again and together with Pinot and Pozzovivo, they joined Scarponi and Yates.

 

Scarponi was dropped and from there it was a pursuit between Quintana, Mollema, the Contador group and the Poels group further back. However, Quintana was clearly the strongest and he constantly increased his advantage.

 

At the flamme rouge, Quintana led Mollema by 26 seconds but when he reached the finish, he had distanced the Dutchman by another 15 seconds. In the finale, Uran and Rodriguez had bridged the gap to the Contador group and it was the Spaniard who made a late acceleration to lead the group across the line in third, 14 seconds further adrift.

 

Race leader Poels lost around 1.30 to Quintana and so the Colombian took over the overall lead. He goes into tomorrow’s penultimate stage with a comfortable 39-second buffer over Mollema while Uran is third at 48 seconds. He should have a relatively easy ride as the flat stage is expected to be one for the sprinters.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s first taste of the hills, it was time for the queen stage that brought the riders over 196.9km from Esanatoglia to the top of Monte Terminillo. With two climbs, the first third was pretty tough but then the riders hit a flat middle section before a slightly more undulating terrain led to the bottom of the Monte Terminillo (16.1km, 7.3%).

 

The riders took the start under horrendous weather conditions as rain was falling at the start and it was snowing at the finish. One rider didn’t continue in the race as Elia Viviani (Sky) decided to head home to recover from his crash in stage 1.

 

The break is formed

De Marchi was in a determined mood and he launched the first attack together with Lieuwe Westra (Astana). They were chased by Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani), Carlos Quintero (Colombia) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) but those two groups were both brought back.

 

Instead, De Marchi made it into a new group with Scarponi, Monfort, Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18), Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha). As they had a gap of 1.02, Boasson Hagen set off in pursuit but as he never got any closer, he decided to wait for the peloton, shortly after the top of the final climb

 

Bonus seconds for Scarponi

The gap was now 2.46 and the peloton now took it easy. At the 21km mark, the gap was 4.50 and when Montaguti led Scarponi, Voss and De Marchi over the top of the first climb, it was 5.43.

 

While Marcel Aregger (IAM) left the race, De Marchi had to fight his way back from a puncture and later Grivko suffered a similar kind of misfortune. Scarponi picked up valuable bonus seconds by leading Vicioso, Voss and Montaguti across the line in the first intermediate sprint while the peloton kept the gap around 5.30.

 

The gap grows

Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) were the next to abandon while the peloton again slowed down and allowed the gap to reach more than 7 minutes. At the 62km mark, it was 7.12.

 

Montaguti led Scarponi, Voss and Herrada over the top of the second climb as the peloton had now increased the speed. For most of the day, they kept the gap stable at around 7 minutes.

 

Sky accelerate

As they approached, the finish, they started to accelerate and at the 130km mark, they had brought the gap down to 5.30. Sky took their responsibility as race leaders and did most of the work.

 

As the fight for position intensified, the British team also upped the pace. With 28km to go, they had the gap down to 3.52 at a point when Jorge Castiblanco (Colombia) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana) left the race.

 

Grivko is dropped

With 25km to go, the British team got swamped and lost their leading positions in the group that fought hard for position. Meanwhile, Grivko did a fantastic work for his teammate Scarponi until he finally dropped back with 21km to go.

 

Scarponi led Voss and Montaguti across the line in the final intermediate sprint at a time when the gap was 3.10. Sky went back to work and it was Kiryienka who led the group onto the climb.

 

Three leaders emerge

Montaguti tried to attack on the descent leading to the climb but Scarponi, Herrrada, De Marchi and Vicioso all managed to rejoin him while Voss threw in the towel. With the gap down to 2.06, Scarponi knew that he had to go full gas and when he started to ride on the front, he got clear on his own.

 

Monfort managed to rejoin him and later De Marchi also got back to the front. While Herrada, Vicioso and Voss all got caught, Monaguti spent a long time as the lone chaser.

 

Basso hits the front

With 12km to go, Tinkoff-Saxo wanted to make the race harder as they put Ivan Basso on the front. With 11km to go, he had brought the gap down to 1.35.

 

Kiryienka reemerged from the back of the group and took over the pace-setting with 10km to go. Meanwhile, De Marchi was briefly distanced from the front group but he managed to rejoin the leaders.

 

Scarponi distanced his companions but first De Marchi and later Monfort managed to get back. Meanwhile, Kiryienka brought Montaguti back with 8km to go. With 7km to go, the gap was still 1.20 and this was the time for Kreuziger to kick into action, starting the exciting finale with his first attack.

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