When Nairo Quintana attacks…

Vuelta 2016, stage eightCheap populist documentaries like When Animals Attack at least have plenty of source material. You’d struggle to put together more than a few minutes for an episode of When Nairo Quintana Attacks. This year’s Tour de France was three weeks of build-up only for it to never actually happen.

It was therefore quite a surprise when a Quintana attack happened on stage eight of the Vuelta and no-one was more taken aback than Chris Froome. The South Africa-raised Kenyan-born Briton paced himself on the early slopes and then tried to whir away when he regained contact with everyone. He got as far as dropping Alberto Contador but when he turned to survey the damage, not only was Quintana still there, he also had more to give. Froome did an actual double-take. Unfortunately for him, he’d reached the end of his effort, but the Colombian just carried on.

The climb was unpleasant for everyone. Quintana doesn’t like showing any signs of discomfort, so he hit upon the ingenious ploy of getting out of the saddle but pointing his face towards his own navel so that we couldn’t see his grimace. He kept on going to the line and finished 25 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador, 33 seconds ahead of Froome and Alejandro Valverde and 57 seconds ahead of Esteban Chaves (who is perhaps rethinking his dismissive pre-stage comment about how the time gaps on this stage were only likely to be 30 seconds at most).

Contador earns special mention. Visibly wounded, his main goal for the day had not been to finish – it had simply been to start. That achieved, he did extraordinarily well to finish second of the main contenders – and really, this Vuelta is almost certainly now a battle between the four riders I’ve mentioned so far.

Quintana is first overall, 19 seconds ahead of team-mate Valverde, 27 seconds ahead of Froome and 57 seconds ahead of Chaves.

A bit earlier…

Sergey Lagutin had won the stage having been in the day’s break. In common with most of the stage winners at this Vuelta I don’t know a thing about him. This is despite his having been a professional for over a decade.

Stage nine

It’s the Vuelta, so it’s another summit finish. There were four in this year’s Tour. This is the second of four on the bounce in this race.

Today’s stage term is ‘amber’ – the fossilised resin that plays a starring role in Jurassic Park rather than the motivation for so many drivers to accelerate rather than brake when approaching traffic lights.

Vuelta 2016, stage nine