The Champs-Élysées in Paris received the survivors in the 102nd Tour de France on Sunday as Chris Froome (SKY) took his second overall victory in a race where the Movistar Team played an undeniably leading role. A stage victory was the only honour not achieved by a voracious telephone squad, whose full roster fulfilled the expectations on their shoulders and fought until the very last day for the final win in the most prestigious stage race in professional cycling.
Aged only 25, Nairo Quintana claimed his second TDF podium finish after getting stronger and stronger throughout the race, fighting bravely on roads suiting him least and recovering in the Pyrenees - 2nd atop La Pierre-Saint-Martin - before attacking the GC leader in the Alps, where he came again close to a stage win. In turn, Alejandro Valverde (3rd) took a fair reward for a whole sporting career dreaming of the 'Grande Boucle', surprisingly in his first season as main support of another leader, always showing himself solid and courageous.
Additional support from Winner Anacona - 3rd in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne -, Gorka Izagirre and an ever-consistent José Herrada and Jonathan Castroviejo in the mountains, as well as Imanol Erviti, Adriano Malori and Alex Dowsett, the only withdrawal from the Blues, in all other terrains completed an excellent race from the group directed by José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta, which claimed its first TDF teams' classification win under Telefónica's sponsorship after previous successes in 1991 and 1999.
This is the overview on the 2015 Tour de France by Eusebio Unzué, general manager of the Movistar Team:
“I feel really proud about what this team has achieved during the last three weeks," he said. "I think we fared really week all over the Tour. We raced somewhat conditioned after the minute and a half we lost in Zeeland, which might well have been decisive for the race's outcome, though at that moment and seeing how the final 55 kilometers went, we were satisfied with staying 'alive' for what was left in the Tour. If we had not had that bad luck with the splits, the balance between Nairo and Froome would have fallen in favor of the former.
"Still, everything counts for the final result and we've got nothing to object about Froome's victory. He was the strongest during the opening two weeks, when he rode flawlessly; he had perfect support from a fantastic team and the management was crucial.
"We had out last shot at the final victory yesterday, tried a long attack on the Croix de Fer and also on L'Alpe d'Huez, but it was actually a stage where Froome had domestiques on top of their game and our final chances to turn things around were done.
“Quintana has confirmed all hopes we had in him. He did a superb race, three impeccable weeks where only unfavourable circumstances on stage two prevented him from winning the Tour. It's not that he lacks experience, rather than that he will discover new strategies to win when he rides the Tour every year. He's young and will improve and mature, yet he's already shown to be perfectly prepared for three-week stage races, and seeing how he has coped with the pressure of being one of the main references in the race, it shows us he's strong enough from a physical point of view.
“There are many reasons to feel satisfied, proud, elated about what Alejandro has accomplished. During his career, he's always set a goal, sort of a challenge for himself, something that gave him more excitement than some victories: jumping onto the Tour de France podium.
"The most important thing about this third place is how he rode in this Tour and which rivals he had to face. That's the thing that makes us prouder: the fact that he keeps that willingness to fight and overcome any difficulties as a 35-year-old. Combined with Nairo, we can say we had the riders and team most committed to making up the gaps to Froome after the first mountain stage, every single day.
“The teams' classification has a big sentimental value for me: seeing all the boys on the podium always made me tremendously satisfied, and taking this victory again, after such a long time and against such strong rivals, is one of the biggest moments of joy this Tour leaves us. I think it sums up well how regular we were, and above all, how strong they all rode.
"Sometimes it was Winner riding well in the mountains; at other times, it was José Herrada; Castroviejo and Gorka Izagirre also fought a lot; even Malori; the first week, with Dowsett and Imanol…. All of them, every single rider was super important for such a prize.
"I'm still really sad about not being able to win the TTT and confirm our progression, even more after how we lost it in Plumelec; then again, I feel proud of being able to manage a team which responded so well to all the expectations in the Tour and our squad. These won't count as a victory, but it has a huge value for the boys.
"This podium brings me good memories and a great satisfaction. It's not the first time but it's something you never get tired of. The teams classification makes me very happy because I see smiling faces. All the guys have done a great job and usually only the leaders are awarded but with this price, they're all on stage. Fortunately, this sport has a future secured in our country. There'll be more victories coming and it'll please many young guys."
"I'm happy and excited," Quintana said. "It's my second podium for my second participation. We also won the teams classification, which is very important for those who usually don't get rewarded. The podium is spectacular.
"Compared with two years ago, this time I came as a sole leader and it adds value to my achievement. In 2013, I was in a state of shock, I didn't understand what was happening. Now I'm more mature. I'm more of a leader. My career is going very well."
“It’s an unbelievable day," Valverde said. "It’s so emotional. It was lovely to see [the Champs-Elysees from the podium]. We had a very tough Tour de France.”
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