Rain not shine the key to Quintana revival at Tour de France
Albertville (France) (AFP)
With the rain comes hope, at least that's what Tour de France fourth-placed rider Nairo Quintana believes.
Following the oppressive heat of the past few days in the Alps, the Colombian is hoping for a change of fortunes as radical as Friday’s altering skies.
Quintana has been a shadow of himself at this Tour, sitting fourth overall at 4min 37sec off his great British rival and race leader Chris Froome.
The 26-year-old Movistar leader had been expecting to challenge the Tour favourite and many even believed, given the mountainous course, that this year would see a passing of the baton from England's finest Kenyan import to the pride of the Andes.
Yet instead, Quintana has found himself impotent, uninspired and overrun during a Tour in which he's been unable to launch an attack or acceleration to change the tide of a race that's been strangled by Froome’s all-conquering Sky team.
Yet Quintana, second overall to Froome in 2013 and last year, still believes there is hope, although not in terms of overall victory.
After the searing heat, Friday’s 146km 19th stage from Albertville to Saint Gervais Mont Blanc is due to be ridden under thick, dark clouds with intermittent rain. The temperature too will drop around 10 degrees Celsius.
And Quintana, who until Thursday was at a loss to explain his sluggish form, claims that will allow him to finally, and truly, express himself.
"I didn't expect to be feeling like this, it's not fatigue that I'm feeling, but my body isn't responding," complained Quintana following the uphill time-trial in which he finished a disappointing 10th.
"I could have at the moment a type of allergy because I'm not able to oxygenate my legs very well.
"It might be an allergy from this area that I have and which has been affecting me the last few days.”
Yet Quintana believes the solution has arrived with grey skies, although too late to save his hopes of overall victory.
Instead he is embroiled in a thrilling battle for the minor placings.
"I hope that with the rain that is expected, I'll feel better and will be able to fight for the podium," he said.
Bauke Mollema in second is just 1min 08sec ahead of Richie Porte in sixth with four categorised climbs on Friday’s menu, including the first category ascent to the finish.
Another four categorised climbs will be tackled on Saturday’s 20th stage and while Froome’s Sky armada will unlikely be troubled, the rest should at least scrabble among themselves in the fight for a top three finish.
Quintana is currently outside of that, but he is only 45sec behind Mollema and just 21sec off third-placed Adam Yates, the 23-year-old Briton and surprise package of this Tour.
Also in the hunt are Frenchman Romain Bardet and Australian Porte. That battle at least promises much, despite the damp squib of the yellow jersey race.
© 2016 AFP