• Nairo Quintana after stage 1 of the 2018 Tour de France (Getty)Source: Getty
Catastrophe was the word Mikel Landa used to describe the day of fellow jersey hopeful, and teammate Nairo Quintana at the end of the first stage at the Tour de France for 2018. In three weeks' time we will know the true impact.
Jane Aubrey

Cycling Central
8 Jul 2018 - 2:03 PM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2018 - 2:10 PM


Noun. 1. An event causing great and usually sudden damage or suffering; a disaster. Something very unfortunate or unsuccessful.

That was the word Mikel Landa used to describe the day of fellow jersey hopeful, and teammate Nairo Quintana at the end of the first day at the Tour de France for 2018.

Indeed, as a handful of the Colombian’s rivals crashed in the final 10km – including Richie Porte (BMC), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Chris Froome (Sky) – it was Quintana who was the biggest loser. At the end of the 201 kilometre stage, Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First – Drapac) head into Stage 2 with a 51-second advantage over the trio while worryingly, Quintana is a further 24 seconds in arrears. Ouch.

Carnage early in the battle for yellow
It was supposed to be a quiet day for the general classification contenders, a 201 kilometre stroll down the coast from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île to Fontenay-le-Comte. Some of the favourites for yellow came crashing back to reality.

Anyone who baulked at the premise that Movistar could manage three general classification team leaders at this year’s Tour would have been watching Quintana’s solitary three and a half kilometre journey to the finish with eyebrows raised.

Quintana broke both wheels on a speed hump and with the team car caught behind the carnage, he received replacements from neutral service before team boss Eusebio Unzué caught up to him and he got on a spare bike. The issue was that Quintana’s designated helper, José Joaquín Rojas, got tangled in the crash that tangled Porte and Yates, and so couldn’t help when the Colombian needed it.

“Sadly, things went that way – there’s no other thing left for us but carry on and try to recover in the upcoming stages,” said Quintana.

Looking at Movistar’s own version of Ghidorah, common sense would deem Quintana ranks as the Spanish outfit’s best bet for yellow, followed by Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde. In the Tour’s new eight-man team format, a very careful heirachy needs to be assembled around your leader, or in Movistar’s case, leaders.

It was clear previously in Landa’s case he has struggled within leadership rungs, both at Team Sky with Froome and at Astana with Fabio Aru. When Landa arrived at Movistar, Quintana made it clear late last year he was team leader and numero uno for the Tour, but at the same time, he welcomed the assistance of the likes of Landa and Valverde to take on Froome and Sky. Perhaps it’s a case of ‘careful what you wish for’.

“Things like what happened to Nairo are something you never expect at the moment they happen, and it’s really awful,” said Landa.

Crashes and mechanicals are inevitable in cycling so Landa’s comments come across as a little naïve. In these days of modern radio communication, Quintana has every right to expect more from his teammates.

If you are Unzué for the day, do you anoint one team leader or hand it to all three riders and instruct them to work together? It’s early in the race; although one can’t help but think that Unzué’s chickens have already come home to roost.

When Quintana was runner-up to Chris Froome at the Tour in 2015, he was one minute and 12 seconds from the top step of the podium. The following year at the Vuelta a España, Quintana had an advantage of one minute and 23 seconds over the Kenyan-born Brit.

In three weeks’ time we’ll know the true impact of Quintana’s catastrophe, and whether Unzué’s call to use three team leaders was a stroke of genius, or monumental disaster. Regardless, Quintana’s results historically will likely cause some unrest. It’s simple mathematics.

Three into one doesn’t go.

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