Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana recon Tour de France Pyrenéen stages
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana recon Tour de France Pyrenéen stages

by Ben Atkins at 7:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Movistar climbers checking out the climbs ahead of July’s big rendezvous

alejandro valverdeMovistar riders Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana have spent two days checking out the Pyrenéen mountain passes that will be climbed in July’s Tour de France. In the company of directeur sportif José Luis Arrieta, the two climbers inspected the routes of stages eight and nine - from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines, and from Saint-Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre - which will be raced on the weekend of July 6th and 7th.

Valverde crashed out of the Volta a Catalunya on stage four, while leading the race, but was not badly hurt and has been able to return to training straight away. Last year’s Tour saw the Murcian lose time early on, but he was able to take a prestigious stage victory on the race’s first ever visit to Peyragudes.

"It was a huge load of climbs and long trips into the team car these two days, but it really was worth the effort,” said Valverde. “Though we have raced in the Pyrenees many times, there were climbs like the two on the first day, Val Louron and the Hourquette, that I didn't know, so it was good to know perfectly what we're going to tackle this July. Even with the snow alongside the routes, we could climb all ascents, and that's important.”

Stage six from Castres will be relatively flat for much of its 194km route, but features the 2100 metre Col de Pailhères shortly before scaling the 1360 metre climb to the finish at Ax-3-Domaines. Stage seven, on the other hand, has a far more jagged profile, with a series of climbs - the Cols de Portet d’Aspet, Menté, Peyresourde, Val Louron-Azet, and the lesser known Hourquette d’Ancizan - to be scaled throughout its 165km.

“Any of those two stages might become decisive, because both are quite hard,” Valverde explained. “Though everything will be left to the finale on stage eight, the road before Pailhères is also difficult and the group will be really stretched. The two climbs are difficult, but Pailhères seemed really difficult to me, to be honest. It will be the first mountain stage in this year's Tour de France and that makes it even more dangerous.

“The second one is not so long, but there isn't a single meter of rest,” he added. “It's gonna be a fast, nervous one, and if you have a bad day there... I'm fully recovered from Catalunya's crash and I'm feeling well on the bike. Now I'll be racing at Estella, Rioja and Amorebieta before the classics."

nairo quintanaQuintana had a better time in Catalunya, winning stage three - where Valverde took the lead - finishing third on stage four, and finishing the race fourth overall.

“It was important to recon these stages to get used to what we'll find in July,” said the 23-year-old Colombian. “I didn't know the climbs and I quite liked them. All of them have steep slopes and some, like Pailhères, are rather long - that suits me. Weather was kind with us and we could take on all climbs except the final part of the Pailhères and the last climb of stage nine.”

Quintana made his Grand Tour debut in last year’s Vuelta a España, but hopes to ride his first Tour de France in July.

“There's still a very long way to go, many months, but doing this recon makes me even more excited towards my Tour debut. That's the dream of every single cyclist, and also mine."

Valverde will return to racing in the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday, while Quintana is set to race the Vuelta a La Rioja on Sunday.

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