Contador, Quintana, Froome and the Pyrenees
The Vuelta is starting to take shape in spectacular style. On Saturday, a chaotic and wonderful stage was a teat to watch but had no real consequence on the overall classification. On Sunday, a lengthy attack launched by Alberto Contador reeled in Nairo Quintana and a few others in what could prove to be a decisive moment. Chris Froome kept up the chase and appeared to have caught up but Contador put his foot down again and left him in his wake. Further back, Froome’s Sky teammates, until then seemingly invincible, tried to come up in support but were unable, with the race becoming a game of alliances and vested interests.
Then there is the mountain, the great truth-maker of cycling. These two stages unfolded in the Pyrenees, the latter a constant state of emotion: Contador and Quintana’s group ahead of Froome’s numerous bunch, then the Oricas and Astana’s behind them and, at the back, the rest of the teams and Sky, who swiftly threw in the towel and put up something of a shameful final display. Sky’s team director managed to forge occasional alliances to keep his riders at a prudent distance from the leaders until the foot of Formigal. From there, everyone did what they could. And Froome suffered on the ascent, doubtless a victim of stress.
The end result was that Quintana now holds a comfortable advantage of 3:37. But there is still enough Vuelta for Froome to try and hook the Colombian. There is a time-trial stage that favours Froome, and a few more mountain finishes with Aitana, on the penultimate day, standing out. It is an ideal perspective for the fans, a prize for those who selected the course, in which the Pyrenees have displayed their might. And all thanks to the courage of Contador, who never gives up. Perhaps his strength has lessened a little but his heart remains the same. I don’t think he’ll win this Vuelta, but he has made us feel as proud of him as we did in his finest days.