Tour de France

Quintana primed for Froome attack

2016-07-08 12:33
nairo quintana
Nairo Quintana (Getty Images)

L'Isle-Jourdain - Nairo Quintana is expecting a searching examination from Chris Froome on the first full mountain stage of this year's Tour de France on Friday.

The 26-year-old Colombian is widely regarded as the best climber in the world, but he's developed a habit of taking time to hit top gear in Grand Tours.

And when Froome, 31, won the Tour in 2013 and again last year - relegating Quintana into second on both occasions - he hit the mountains running and put time into his rivals on the first serious summit.

Asked if he expects Froome to make an attack like he did last year at Pierre Saint Martin or the climb to Ax 3 Domaines in 2013, Quintana was unequivocal.

"I think he'll probably do the same thing," said the Movistar leader.

The big difference this time, though, is that Quintana arrives at the first mountain stage on the same time as Froome, whereas last year he was already two minutes behind.

He finished the stage more than three minutes back before eventually losing the Tour by just a minute and 12 seconds.

"We got through the last flat stage without any problems, which was our main aim for the first week of the Tour," added Qunitana.

"Now we're eagerly anticipating the mountains. (Friday) will be a difficult day with the Col d'Aspin."

The 12km climb with an average gradient of 6.5 percent is not the toughest by any stretch facing the riders on this year's race.

It's a first category climb and nowhere near as difficult as the hors category Tourmalet or Ventoux, which will feature later on.

It's also succeeded by a 7km descent to the finish at Lac de Payolle at the end of the 162.5km seventh stage.

But it's what the French call a "dry climb" meaning that there is no time to get used to riding uphill before the day's main difficulty arrives.

The peloton will arrive from a mostly flat stage to suddenly hitting a long climb.

That was the same situation at Pierre Saint Martin last year, where Quintana failed to keep up with Froome's burst.

In both 2013 (2 minutes) and 2015 (3 minutes), Quintana found himself some way off Froome after the first mountain stage.

The next two days in the Pyrenees will be much tougher, though, and Froome's Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas isn't expecting big gaps to appear on the Aspin.

"It's a tough climb but it shouldn't be too selective, I don't think," he said.

"The day after is harder with four big climbs and it's going to be hot. I think that could be more selective for sure.

"Then obviously Andorra (on Sunday) is the hardest stage of the race so far."

That could be bluff and it will be no surprise to see Sky pushing the pace on the approach to the Aspin.

Froome has developed a ruthless streak and if he smells any weakness in his rivals, he won't be hanging around.


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