Tour de France: Nairo Quintana slips to fifth place, is penalized for pushing a racing bike

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Nairo Quintana’s battle to retain fourth place in the Tour de France fell apart under pressure from rival David Gaudu (Cofidis), who managed to bring down Team Arkéa rider Samsic on the final ascent of Hautacam Thursday in the 18th stage.

The Quintana team were on the defensive from the start of the stage when Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert went on the attack. Meintjes had started the day seventh overall, 1:31 behind Quintana, which forced his team to chase, but a bigger threat came from Gaudu, who attacked the Colombian on the final climb and finished 2:24 ahead of him.

Quintana was stressed enough to briefly push a racing bike, and was later penalized for it. He received a 10-second penalty, a fine of 200 Swiss francs and was cut four points from the points classification and the KOM competition.

He is now 1:35 p.m. behind race leader Jonas Vingaard (Jumbo-Visma) and has slipped one place to fifth overall. Gaudu is 2.5 hours ahead of him and will be relatively confident of holding that position, even if there is a hilly stage on Friday and a time trial on Saturday before the race concludes in Paris on Sunday.

Quintana must be vigilant of the runners behind him; Meintjes is only eight seconds behind him, while Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) is 35 seconds behind.

He said he would stay focused between now and the end of the race in Paris.

“I gave it my all,” he said. “I had a little trouble breathing, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse. I think we are doing a great Tour de France. The race was very fast, my teammates did a very good job. We have all given our all.

“I hope to have a good time now [in the time trial – ed.] in order to be among the very first in this Tour de France. I ran with my heart, I threw all my strength into the battle, the head also played a vital role.

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Cofidis sporting director Yvon Ledanois said he was proud of the way the team rode. “This stage brought together everything we expected: suspense, panache. We tried, and we did everything, even if it meant dying on the side of the road. The guys gave their all, there are no regrets. Nairo also gave his all.

“We leave [slip out of] fourth place with honors. There are now three stages left before the Champs [Élysées], we will continue with the same desire that has driven us since our departure from Denmark. Few people would have said before this Tour that we would be in this place at the end of the Pyrenees.

“The team has always believed in Nairo and his teammates. Focus now on the next stages, we remain focused, because the Tour is far from over.

Quintana is in the final year of his contract with the team. Having finished second, second and third in the Tour in the early years of his career, he has been more in the background in recent seasons. His performance in this year’s race is a step up from his last two appearances, having placed 17th and 28th in 2020 and 2021.

At 32, he says he has taken a positive step in the event.

“I regained confidence on this Tour after difficult years, and it’s a good thing for the future.”

About Todd Wurtsbach

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