The 22-year-old Colombian youngster snatched his first win against WorldTour rivals after a strong attack in the Joux Plane and a great final descent.
Overall victor of the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir and winner of the Queen stage and the overall classification at the Vuelta a Murcia this season, Nairo Quintana had already left signs of his quality, but today he showed his real level against the sport’s top contenders with a huge victory in the hardest day of the Critérium du Dauphiné, the sixth, penultimate stage in the French event. The 22-year-old Colombian raised his arms at the finish of Morzine via a strong attack with 4km from the top of the Joux Plane climb, a HC ascent located just 12k from the finish after a selective stage with six categorized climbs, including an early, dangerous, 20-man break with no Movistar Team riders that could only be reached in the kilometers prior to Quintana’s move.
The South American rider reached the summit of the the Alpine colossus with 23 seconds over a 9-man short group always having Vasil Kiryienka inside, and launched himself into a dangerous descent where he not only kept the differences high, but opened a bigger gap and imitated his effort from last March in the Queen stage of the Vuelta a Murcia, over a similar finish in the Collado Bermejo. It’s the third success by Quintana this year and the 16th by Movistar Team -now 2nd in the teams’ overall- for an excellent 2012 season. Behind, the great performance by Kiryienka leads him into the sixth spot in the overall, always led by Bradley Wiggins (SKY), at the expense of tomorrow’s showdown: 121km from Morzine to Châtel, a cat. 4 hill (1.5km, 8,7%) preceeded by the chained duo of Vernaz (Cat. 2) and Corbier (Cat. 1) in the closing 30 kilometers.
QUOTES Nairo Quintana: “It was a really complicated stage because I went through really bad sensations at the start and couldn’t make the breakaway. Fortunately, Sky kept the escapees held tight and some other squads helped later, so I saw I had some chances. With 4k from the summit, I saw a good moment to give it a try. I didn’t attack really strong, but instead on a progressive pace. I knew I could get to the finish solo if I had twenty seconds at the top. It reminded me of the stage I won in Murcia and I thought it was going to be enough, just like it happened. Right since the morning I was thinking a lot about Raúl Malagón, a man not with us today that helped so much as well Cayetano Sarmiento as to myself, when we both weren’t real prospects. I wanted to dedicate him this victory and I did it. Also to my parents, my girlfriend and Mauricio Soler and his wife, who looked after me so much in the days prior to this race. The Tour de l’Avenir and the Vuelta a Murcia were really special victories for me, but this is the most important one because I won against very important riders. Something told me everything was going to be good this season, and to be honest, things are doing way better than I expected. In principle, I’ll be riding the Route du Sud after this, and then I’ll head back to Colombia to prepare myself for the Vuelta a España.”