Tag Archives: Nairo Quintana

Van Avermaet’s revenge in Montreal

It was a 986km round trip to watch 205km of bike racing, but it was worth every metre, as always. This was my fourth year going to the GP Cycliste de Montreal. It has become a bit of a annual tradition (one that I hope to soon include the Quebec race into!) and call me biased, but this race must be one of the finest one-day races on the calendar outside of the five monuments.

It’s just a shame in many ways that it clashes with the final day of the Vuelta, as well as the Tour of Britain. It should be a stand alone event to further boost its prestige and give it more viability to those who maybe haven’t see it, as the great race it is. Not that the field has suffered as a result of the other races, such is the depth of the talent in world cycling. We had the World champion in Peter Sagan and the Olympic champion in Greg Van Avermaet present. And it was that pair who illuminated the racing in Quebec and here.

If Friday was all about Sagan out sprinting Van Avermaet, then Sunday was the Belgians revenge. Both leave Canada deadlocked with a win and second place each and the fans leave entertained.

It was an absolute privilege to watch the finest athletes in the world do their stuff. The crowds were as big as any previous year I had been up there, and why not? A day of action and for free. It was a wonder the entire city hadn’t come up to take a look. In few other sports can you get that close to the athletes. Action that lasted five hours over 17 laps of a 12.1km circuit that included two tough climbs. The total climbing of the 205.7km race was a brutal 3893m.

And it’s the climb of Camillien-Houde at 1.8km and 8% average gradient was were most spend their day. It comes right at the beginning of the lap and tops out 10km from the finish of the lap. so It can prove decisive in late selections but not the race winning move. That is often saved for the shorter 780m, 6% climb of the Cote de Polytechnique that summits 5.6km out. Or for the final kick out of the hairpin up to the finish line on a drag that lasts for 560m but at a tough 4% grade. It’s those climbs repeated, especially the Camillien-Houde, that provide the gradual weeding out process. The slow exhausting of the legs as they climb it 17 times.

You get a good idea of the kind of race it is when you look at the list of past winners. Since I started going in 2013, Sagan, Simon Gerrans, Tim Wellens and today, Van Avermaet. Yes, it’s a proper one-day classic.

And there’s no better way to watch a bike race than this kind of circuit. It’s long enough for the course to have plenty to it but with laps taking about 20 minutes or so, there’s plenty to see. I’m not sure I’d drive that far to watch it if it were a point-to-point race and I would only see them come past the once. With this kind of a course you can see the race develop as it ebbs and flows and takes shape. I like to pick out a rider or two, especially one who might feature come the end, and follow their progress each lap. It’s interesting to see how they read the race, how they position themselves and build towards the crucial moments.

It’s not easy to do when there are so many riders in a pack in team jerseys. I often think that for these kind of races the team leaders should wear different jerseys. The winner of a grand tour should wear that race winning jersey throughout the season, much like the world champion does. Speaking of whom, the one jersey you can pick out with ease is the rainbow stripes and this year it was on the back of the brilliant Peter Sagan.

He had won on Friday and was an obvious favourite for Montreal, so it was fascinating to watch him each lap to see how he went about it. Sagan spent a lot of time in the final third of the pack. I remember a few years ago when he won he would enter the main climb near the front and drift to the back thus saving energy on others. I seen no evidence of this time, though granted I spent a lot of my day up near the top of the hill. At one stage on the descent Sagan came past behind one of the team-cars near the back of the cavalcade. I’m not sure if he had a mechanical issue, but it was still a long way out and by the next race he was back in the field.

When Geraint Thomas forced the pace on the climb with about four laps to go, his move that split the field. The surge also reeled in the final four men of what had been six-man day-long break that included two Canadian riders. Sagan missed the move, but he didn’t panic and remained further back in the bunch while his team worked on the chase. There’s a coolness about the way Sagan races. Almost an understanding that the race will come to him. Had the Thomas move gotten away, you feel the laid-back Sagan might have shrugged his shoulders and said, well there’s always the next race. The was no panic and a lap later he was back in the mix.

Only with the crucial moves made in the final two laps did Sagan turn up. I’d like to have picked out Van Avermaet too, but wearing the BMC jersey like his team-mates it wasn’t always easy. Before I’d have through it too hilly for Van Avermaet, but his climbing has improved, highlighted by his Olympic win on a hilly circuit in Rio.

Late on Rui Costa attacked hard, on the final run up Camillien-Houde. He held a lead going into the final kilometre but it was a small group that got clear on the Cote de Polytechnique that brought him back. The group contained Sagan and Van Avermaet.

By then I was sitting up in a grandstand just 30m from the finish line. As I watched the chase blitz past on the opposite side of the road and under the red kite, I turned to the big screen to see what would come back up the road. Costa got swept up as they swung out of the final hairpin and made the drive for the line. It seemed made for Sagan. Having watched him all day I was desperate to see him pull it off, but it also had become clear that he had led the chase a little too much. He once again tried to close down a late move in the final straight and this allowed Van Avermaet to get onto his wheel. Into a heavy wind Sagan was in trouble and the Olympic champion cane around the world champion late to take the win.

So both took a turn beating the other and I was just glad to have been there for the Montreal race to see it come together. Safe to assume I’ll be back again next year, and I hope those two are also.

Result:

1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in 5h27’04”

2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

3. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida)

4. Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange)

5. Nathan Haas (Dimension Data)

6. Gianni Moscon (Sky) all s.t.

Top Canadian finisher: Ryder Hesjedal, 19th (Trek-Segafredo)

King of the Mountains: Ben Perry (Canada)

Quintana wraps up the Vuelta

Saturday’s stage was a giant with potential for mayhem. It contained several hills leading into a final 22km climb with a summit finish. As it turns out Quintana responded to everything Froome threw at him and rode into Madrid yesterday as the worthy winner of this race. The only major shakeup was the bad day for Alberto Contador and a great ride by Esteban Chaves that allowed the Colombian to join his national compatriot Quintana on the podium.

Could Froome have won this Vuelta had he not been part of the Olympics after his Tour win? I think so. People will say Quintana won this Vuelta last week when himself and Contador forced the split that caught Froome out. Which regards to the race itself is true. But I also think it was when Froome attended the Olympics. That isn’t to say this was a mistake – he did win a silver medal after all – but there’s no doubt he showed up in less than top form. Froome was not himself in the early going. It also perhaps limited his ability to shake Quintana from his wheel in the later stages.

Froome has said next year he will target both the Tour and the Vuelta with his Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford saying he believes the double is possible. From what I’ve seen I tend to agree, but Quintana will also believe it possible himself with the confidence gained from this victory.

Final classification:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 83h31’28”

2. Chris Froome (Sky) @ 1’23”

3. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) @ 4’08”

4. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) @ 4’21”

5. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) @ 7’43”

6. Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) @ 8’33”

Tour of Britain musings

What with the Vuelta being on and then me being up in Montreal, I seen none of the Tour of Britain. That said, everything I’ve read and heard, it sounds like some brilliant racing. Steve Cummings of Dimension Data took the GC win by 26sec over Rohan Dennis and 38sec ahead of Tom Dumoulin. Both are time-trial specialists, but who could not overhaul the defecit to the Englishman after his time gains on a brilliant stage two ride. It wasn’t until stage six when Cummings finally took the race lead and from there he held it into London.

Rider of the week

I couldn’t split Sagan and Van Avermaet given both took a win and a second place in Canada. I couldn’t quite go for Froome despite his time-trial win and gritty effort to pull back his loses on Quintana. And I didn’t go for Quintana because he won the week before in what was his best week of the Vuelta. As a result it’s Steve Cummings and his brilliant Tour of Britain win.

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Quintana finds a way to shake Froome in the most dramatic of stages

What an incredible week at the Vuelta, accumulating in an extraordinary weekend in which the balance of the race ebbed and flowed before dropping right into the lap of Nairo Quintana, as Chris Froome was finally isolated when Alberto Contador threw all his cards onto the table as he is always apt to do when struggling to make up time by conventional methods.

For several days it seemed though Froome was going to survive what Quintana had been throwing at him and would limit the Colombians lead to around a minute before the stage 19 time-trial in which the Sky rider would then surely overhaul that deficit and set up the first Tour-Vuelta double of the decade.

On Saturday Froome had stayed on the wheel of Quintana in the kind of way the Movistar rider had done to the Sky man the entire Tour de France last month, but managed to lose no time on a grueling finish, one that seen Alejandro Valverde crack and make this Vuelta a two-horse race.


But then came the kind of stage yesterday that should have seen red flags go up before the starters flag had even come down. At just 118km in length but with three hard climbs including a summit finish, all eyes should have been on Contador and what he might try. He was far enough back overall not to panic about too much but when he launched his move and Quintana followed, Froome needed to react.

He was left with a split second decision to either put his team on the front and slowly bring the move back, or to go with it. He chose the former, but the only problem was that his team were nowhere to be seen, or at least no longer had the legs required to do their jobs. So Froome suddenly found himself with only a couple of team-mates and a group of others unwilling to do much work. Quintana and Contador in a group of 14 disappeared up the road and Froome’s GC ambitions began to shatter.

For the final 50km it was a giant pursuit…or a race of damage limitation. Astana chipped in for reasons not quite clear, and Froome may thank them for it, as the damage could have been much worse. Froome limped home 2min 53sec behind Quintana, who finished second on the stage behind Gianluca Brambilla after earlier cracking Contador himself, and while he remains second overall the Sky rider is now 3min 37sec behind. The onus is now on him to try do something similar to Quintana in order to bring down the deficit before the time-trial.

The odds of that seem unlikely given it is clear Froome is not the man he was at the Tour, though those odds may be increased slightly by the fact that he still has a team around him at all. You see, the gruppetto ambled home a massive 54 minutes behind the stage winner and all outside the time-limit. Indeed, Froome was the only Sky man to make the cut and in theory everyone should have been eliminated, reducing the field of this Vuelta to little more than about 70 men. Traditionally however race organizers will overrule the time cut if it means the field would be dramatically reduced and did so in this case though it has created a stir of controversy given the kind of men involved.

In theory, Sky’s domestiques have been given a day off and an entry back into the race, and with fresher legs could yet help Froome to hurt Quintana on a later day. Should that happen you get the sense there might be uproar.

It’s hard to know where to come down on this? Lose more than half the peloton on one stroke and you do make a mockery of the race, but should Sky put the hammer down in the days to come it could equally make a mockery given all but Froome technically shouldn’t be there. There is president for eliminating large groups outside the time limit, but not to this extent. It would seem that race organizers made the common sense decision but it has to have been awkward and it must surely lead to some kind of shakeup on how the time limit is set up and interpreted.

Then again, wouldn’t it have been fascinating to see how it might play out with just 70 or so men line up for the start today with Chris Froome by himself? I get the impression sponsors, TV and others with financial interest might not have been so impressed however. Not to mention fans who are planning to go watch their heroes on a stage this week if they suddenly find out half the field is now missing.

The only way around it, that I can see, is to change the time-limit margins on certain stages so that it isn’t quite as tight as it was today (albeit even relaxing this, the 54min coughed up today still may not have gotten this group inside a more relaxed limit) and then make it a hard and fast limit with no exceptions so that everyone knows were they stand. It seems clear that when the hammer went down on yet another brutal day of hilly racing in this most brutal of Vuelta’s (a level of extreme difficulty that must also surely be factored in when setting time limits), that a large group gathered at the back and decided to take it easy in the knowledge that the race officials wouldn’t have it in them to kick them all out. You can’t blame the riders given how hard this race has been…the organisors in many ways asked for a day like this when they unveiled such a route…one that we all love, mind you, and one that they themselves might even have been delighted with given the spectacle regardless.

But we’ll see how this impacts the race in the days ahead.

And what of Quintana’s form in general? What do we make of his sudden upturn in form from the Tour to the Vuelta? He’s clearly improved dramatically whereas Froome has fallen away. Yes Froome won the Tour, but he only beat Quintana by 4min 21sec, or by just 0.08% of the total time. Of course, Froome then went to a couple of post-Tour criteriums, he completed the Ride London classic, and then flew to Brazil to compete hard in both the road race and individual time-trial, whereas Quintana took a break and turned his focus entirely on the Vuelta. That in itself is possibly the difference.

Or, the Colombian was never targeting the Tour all along despite what he said. Perhaps deep down he knew that he wouldn’t be able to beat Froome when Froome was on top form and instead decided winning the Vuelta held the greater opportunity for a return on his efforts over the season?

We’ll never know what has made the difference for sure, but one thing is certain: Froome is having to dig very deep and hope desperately that his form arrives late just to keep a new and fresher Quintana within sight.

It’s going be a fascinating final week.

As it is, the general classification after 15 stage is as follows:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 61h36’07”

2. Chris Froome (Sky) @ 3’37”

3. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExhange) @ 3’57”

4. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) @ 4’02”

5. Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) @5’07”

6. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) @ 6’12”

Rider of the week

He’s been in fine form throughout this Vuelta and yesterday he put several nails into the coffin of his final rival and baring disaster will surely go on to win this Vuelta. So who else but Nairo Quintana.

Rider of the month

This was hard. Nobody has dominated the month. The Vuelta is still very much on going and still to be determined what direction it might take whereas different people have stepped up to win single day races. As a result I’ve looked at the most prestigious of the lot in August, the Olympics and gone with Greg Van Avermaet for his superb win on a course that nobody expected to suit his style of riding…so much so that Peter Sagan skipped it altogether. Yes the British athletes were superb on the track this month, but Van Avermaets road gold was the standout individual performance.

Quintana takes control of Vuelta after a week of jersey swapping

Up to and including today, the Vuelta a España has seen its red leaders jersey change hands seven times between six men. From Peter Kennaugh back on day one to Nairo Quintana today after the Colombian won the first high mountain stage to retake a lead he had coughed up a day go and put time into his closest rivals heading into the first rest day.

Until today this Vuelta had been one of multiple hills, with a handful of short-sharp summit finishes. The kind of steep climbs that suit you one day and punish you the next. The kind that some climbers love and some hate. It seen opportunities for breaks to survive (hence the race leadership changes) and for small chunks of time to be exchanged among the leaders while those left in contention are whittled down daily.

So much so that after this first week and a bit of racing, only a handful were left in contention. Even Alberto Contador found himself minutes adrift to the likes of Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde and the Colombian pair of Nairo Quintana and Esteban Chaves. Froome looked good one day gaining a few seconds, Valverde would lead the group in a sprint another day, and then Quintana set off and took time on both of them over the weekend. And this was after Quintana himself had looked frail on one of the short hard climbs earlier in the week.

The upshot however, was that coming out of the weekend and into the serious mountains today, from which a new picture would emerge as to who truly was on form, the four contenders were separated by less than a minute. David De La Cruz was the morning leader having taken the jersey off Quintana on Sunday, but at 19 seconds to the Colombian was his team-mate Valverde with Froome at 27sec and Chaves at 57sec. Alberto Contador was 1min 39sec back and looking a shadow of his former self, but these longer climbs bring out a different kind of rider and with a season of racing in all their legs, it was still a journey into the unknown despite what we had seen through the first nine stages of racing.

And as it turns out Quintana still looked sharp. He won the day and retained his race leadership with Chris Froome being best of the rest among the GC men. For a while though it looked as though the Sky rider was in deep trouble when, with about 6km to go, he dropped off from a hard pace being set by Movistar before Quintana and Contador reduced the lead group further with respective attacks. Was this the Contador we all know; better suited to these longer climbs? Was this Quintana staking his claim to bury Froome from contention? Or was this Froome measuring his effort in a way that only he seems capable of, before reeling in the gap?

Froome has made a habit of that in recent years and seems to know his body and his limits more so than anyone else. Call it the computer on his bike giving him out wattage readings, but the rest have one too and yet he often seems to know where his red zone is best. The gap went to almost a minute at one stage before slowly coming down again. And then Contador dropped away from Quintana and soon Froome had him caught. Contador with a power metre on his own bike must surely have seen the signs and known that he was overextending himself. Froome’s catch only confirmed it and you could almost sense it happening before the Spaniard cracked. Then Froome was off in pursuit of Quintana, though the the younger Colombian wasn’t going to fall apart so easily. The road ran out and he took the victory and Froome was left limiting his loses, rolling home third a second behind Robert Gesink from the early break and 25sec down on the new red jersey.

Contador for what it was worth lost a further 1min 5secs overall to Quintana in those closing kilometres and is essentially left now having to resort to one of those wild exploits he has become famous for to try and shake up the race and get himself back into it. I cannot see it, but expect him to thrill us all by trying. Such tactics are often what the greats turn to when legs alone can no longer sustain them and we’re seeing it more and more often from Contador. Still, I must give him credit for at least trying to distance Froome today when he sensed blood in the water but surely Froome’s rivals must know by now that the Sky man losing a wheel, or even half a minute, isn’t a sure sign of his demise.

Also losing time was Chaves who limped in three seconds ahead of Contador but who drops to more than two minutes down on Quintana. As such this Vuelta is now a race for three. Froome and the two Movistar men. Valverde lost only a few seconds to Froome today and is second overall. Both himself and Froome are 57sec and 58sec behind the Colombian respectively.

A rest day tomorrow, but already looking ahead there is so many questions to ask. Quintana has less than a minute on Froome now, but how much effort is the Movistar rider putting out? Can he sustain it? Can he build on it? Will Froome slowly find his legs, or at least, not continue to lose them at the same rate as others? And most of all, how much time does Quintana require on Froome before the 37km time-trial on stage 19?

Between now and that time-trial there are four summit finishes and a number of other mountain stages and Quintana may need to work Froome over on all of them to build enough an advantage to feel safe for the race of truth. This Vuelta is a week and a bit old and it’s already a race for three, perhaps even two, but it’s going to be a fantastic battle to watch.

Overall standings after stage 10:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 38h37’07”

2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) @ 57″

3. Chris Froome (Sky) @ 58″

4. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) 2’09”

5. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) @ 2’54”

6. Leopold Konig (Sky) @ 2’57”

Rider of the week:

I’ve got to go with Darwin Atapuma. He didn’t win a stage last week at the Vuelta but he got in the right move and survived to the finish to take the overall race lead from Ruben Fernendez and retain his jersey for four days before his countryman, Nairo Quintana took over. A solid stage racer who has a knack for getting in good moves, don’t expect this to be the last you see of him in this Vuelta, though it would be a big ask to expect to see him again in red.

The mountain jersey wins in a 1-2 finish for what’s becoming the ‘Colombian-Giro’

It’s always nice at some point in a Grand Tour to see the King of the Mountains leader, decked out in his King of the Mountains jersey, win a mountain stage. Julian David Arredondo done that yesterday in fine style cresting all three of the days big climbs, the final of which he was alone to win in style. The victory all but seals the blue jersey classification in his favour and sets up the probability that Colombian riders will win both the mountains and overall titles.

Remember back to the first week of this Giro when I was talking about it being an ‘Aussie-Giro’ thanks to the team-time-trial won by Orica Greenedge and then Michael Matthews taking the pink jersey for several days before Cadel Evans grabbed it for a few more? Well all that has swung in the direction of a ‘Colombian-Giro’.

The top two positions overall are headed by the Colombians of Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran while on today’s stage Arredondo was followed home by fellow countryman, Fabio Duarte. That’s three stage wins now for Colombians and their so called re-emergence back to the sharp end of cycling is all but complete and perhaps looking better than ever. People remember fondly the glory days in the 1980s of Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra but never before have they dominated in such numbers are they are right now. Even their 90s and 00s success via Oliverio Rincón, Santiago Botero and Mauricio Soler before his premature retirement, were fleeting by comparison.

One look at the age of these imerging Colombian talents says a lot as to how bright their future is: Quintana, 24 years of age; Uran, 27; Arredondo, 25; Duarte, 27, Jarlinson Pantano, 25; Sebastián Henao, 20; and (not in this Giro) Sergio Henao, 26. Their success is only beginning.

In terms of the GC battle today, the biggest loser was Cadel Evans who once again shipped time on his rivals and dropped from 3rd overall to 9th. It isn’t quite as dramatic as it looks given that only 28 seconds separated 3rd to 7th coming into the stage, but it’s still a big blow for the Australian who had to be thinking about winning this Giro just a week ago.

Only Fabio Aru out of the main GC boys took a little time back on Quintana — 3 seconds — while Quintana and Uran took a little more time out of the rest of their rivals as they edged ahead towards the line but a few seconds here and there was all that was conceded as 90 seconds now split 3rd and 9th.

This Giro is looking more and more likely to be a battle for the final podium spot than for the overall victory and that battle will be fought for fiercely tomorrow as they take to the roads alone for the mountain time-trial.

Result: 1. Julian David Arredondo (Trek Factory) in 4-49-51; 2. Fabio Duarte (Colombia) + 17sec; 3. Philip Deignan (Sky) + 37sec; 4. Franco Pellizotti (Androni) + 1-20; 5. Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) + 1-24; 6. Thomas De Gendt (OPQS) + 1-38.

Overall: 1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 77-58-08; 2. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + 1-41; 3. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + 3-29; 4. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 3-31; 5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + s.t.; 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) + 3-52; 7. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) + 4-32; 8. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) + 4-37; 9. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 4-59; 10. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek Factory) + 8-33.

Understandabe confusion reigned on all sides over ‘neutralization’ of Stelvio descent but the strongest rider is still in pink

“Attention: A communication to directeur sportives. The management of the organisation have planned to put ahead of the head of the riders, depending on the situation, of course, after the top, to place in front of various groups an organisation moto with a red flag. All to avoid having attacks on the descent and after this to ensure that the riders remain in their positions and to prevent taking big risks and, for all, to remain in this position until the security agents lower the red flag.”

That is a transcript of the message delivered in English, Italian and French to the teams as the race went up the Stelvio yesterday ahead of the now infamous descent that has thrown this Giro into controversy.

The word ‘neutralized’ is never mentioned but you can see why some riders may have thought they were all set to take it easy. The boss of RCS that organises the Giro, Mauro Vegni, has said the teams and riders misunderstood the message and that there was no neutralization of the descent, saying that “We decided to place the bikes to indicate the trajectory.”

The result however was confusion as several big name riders, as well as those from the earlier break, continued to press on down the mountain with Nairo Quintana, Ryder Hesjedal and Pierre Rolland, among others, eking out a 1 minute, 30 seconds (give or take) advantage over the pink jersey of Rigoberto Uran by the foot of the mountain. By then it was very much race on. The gap never came back and only increased as they went up the final climb, and by the top we had a new leader in this Giro.

None of what happened should be blamed on Quintana, Rolland or Hesjedal for going ahead however, just as Uran and the rest should not be blamed for being left behind. It’s clear that serious confusion reigned and I think if there is any blame it should fall towards the organisation whose communication was about as clear as the field of vision as the sleet fell on the Stelvio. And even at that, with no defined rules or regulations by the UCI, the organisation appeared to be winging it.

What is clear is that the UCI are going to have to look at how these messages are relayed and make clear what the exact course of action is. Do they use specific flags to denote what is going on, like in Motorsport? Or do they use officially agreed upon wording so everyone knows exactly what is expected? Should a red flag mean the stage has been temporarily stopped? Should a yellow flag mean go slow? Should a [insert colour here] mean the stage has been neutralized and as such a maximum speed of, say, 25 km/h is being enforced?

Of course, the problem yesterday was always going to be the fact that different riders were on different parts of the road when word went out and interpretation of those words began and without proper regulation for such a scenario it is hard to neutralize such a stage mid-race without everyone together. Dario Cataldo was up front alone, there were scatterings of riders behind him and there was likely even more small pockets of riders off the back of the main group also. Can they realistically place a motorbike in front of all of them? I doubt it. You come over the climb 1 minute down on the main pack, you’re going to descent hard to get back on, not ride down at the same pace of the main group and hit the valley floor having to start your chase.

And even if they could place motorbikes in front of every group, who dictates what speed each individual motorbike goes at? You can see where there’s more questions than answers and why perhaps in the moment, with the temperatures dropping, with visibility poor, sleet falling and time gaps between various groups unreliable, so much miscommunication and confusion reigned in the giving of the message by the race officials and receiving of that message by the riders.

To me unless the whole pack is together, it’s very hard to suddenly decide to neutralize a section of the course. Perhaps if they have some flag that denotes a maximum speed limit to be adopted by all riders, though how do you police that? Maybe all they could have done was stop the race, get the riders to the bottom of the hill and then set those that were ahead of the peloton off again with the time time gaps in which they crossed the summit.

Just a few ideas, though whether the UCI decide to change the method in which they relay information to the riders during dangerous sections of a course in the future remains to be seen. One things that has been suggested after the fact is that they strip time from Quintana, but how much time? Do they have exact gaps from the bottom of that descent? And where exactly would the end of the neutralized section have been … when Quintana had a 1-20 lead or at a point in which he lead by 1-40? Back tracking in this way to recover a mistake, if indeed it’s decided there was a mistake, would be like going back to a football game that had finished and scrubbing out the goal because they later found out it had been scored by the number 9 in an offside position.

As it is though, I still think the strongest man is in pink today. Quintana came off that descent with a 1-30 gap over Uran but put another 2-40 into him on the final climb. His deficit to Uran coming into yesterday’s stage was 2-40 and Quintana got the time bonus on top of that for the win. Had he stuck with a ‘go-slow’ group down that mountain instead of pressing on, he may have been even fresher to attack that climb. Tactics would have shifted, of course, and he may not have attacked from the bottom of the final climb to get such a gap, but I still think we’re seeing the man in Pink that was headed that way anyway.

People might complain that Quintana has moved into Pink in a hollow kind of way, but I disagree. Had he took 5 minutes out of Uran on the descent and then clung on to retain 2-40 of that lead at the finish, then yes, but Quintana put in one of the great riders in the history of the Giro yesterday, neutralization or not. Forget what he gained coming down the hill, it was how he increased his lead on the final climb with conditions improving and Hesjedal and Rolland taking minimal pulls on the front that was truly inspirational. It’s a shame about the shambles, but it was still an epic stage to watch and nobody will say they turned off their televisions, or even moved off the edge of their seats, because they felt Uran and those taking it slowly were hard done by.

In the long run, this saga will only remain a problem and a talking point beyond that of fond historical memories if Uran starts taking back time on Quintana in the next few days and loses this Giro by less than 90 seconds. Nothing against Uran, but maybe it would be best now if Quintana went and put another two or three minutes onto his current advantage and left this incident as a non-factor in the big picture of this years Giro, which otherwise has been superb.