On Tuesday, in the Basque Country, Quentin Pacher undoubtedly achieved one of his best career performances. The 30-year-old rider grabbed a very solid fourth place on the hill-top finish that concluded stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Groupama-FDJ puncher managed to make his way amongst the big favorites to secure a note-worthy result. As a result, he also moved up to twelfth place overall.
After a successful weekend in the Netherlands, a long transfer and a first rest day, the Vuelta a Espana reunited with its original land on Tuesday. “Only” 153 kilometres were to be covered on this fourth stage in the Basque country, but some proper climbs were on the menu. The Puerto de Herrera (7km at 5%) indeed featured in the last twenty kilometres before a final one-kilometre ramp averaging 8.5% to reach the finish line. “It was the first Spanish stage, and we were back on a more traditional route for the Vuelta”, said Quentin Pacher with a smile. “We studied the course, and we knew that the breakaway would not make it. We therefore decided to give it all for the final, with Rudy Molard and myself”. Groupama-FDJ therefore did not get involved in the fight when the breakaway went after a few minutes of racing. Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alessandro De Marchi (Israel-Premier Tech), Jarrad Drizners (Lotto-Soudal), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) and James Shaw (EF Education-Easy Post) took the lead, but their lead rarely got over the three-minute mark. In the second part of the race, the peloton hardened the chase and eventually bridged back to the six leaders with about thirty kilometres to go. The last categorized climb was next on the list, and Groupama-FDJ got alongside his day’s leader.
“I can’t be disappointed”, Quentin Pacher
“The point was to not make useless efforts, because the hill-top sprint suited me well”, explained Quentin. “As we approached the last categorized climb, Jake and Fabian put me in the best position, so that I didn’t have to make any effort before descending towards the finish”. Five riders from the team were still in the bunch at the summit, with fourteen kilometres to go, and the final then came really fast. “With four kilometres to go, we entered a narrower road, and you had to sneak in and out in order to make your effort without being slowed down”, explained Quentin, who was right up there, in the first ten positions. “I managed to make my way to be close to the front row when the sprint started”. With 200 metres to go, Primoz Roglic went for it, and no one was able to overcome the Slovenian. As for Quentin Pacher, he fought hard until the finish line to net a remarkable fourth place. “I think I can’t be disappointed, I’m even quite satisfied,” said the Frenchman. “In front of me, it’s quite some competition. I am happy. This bodes well for the rest of the Vuelta. This is a confirmation of my good feelings in Poland as well as my abilities on this type of finish. I can still improve to try to go for a podium in this kind of finish, but I am very satisfied with this start”.
“Quentin was our best shot today, so we asked the whole team to support him,” said Philippe Mauduit. “He took a very good fourth place, behind Roglic, Pedersen and Mas. It means something. We always want to win, to do better, but we must also recognize that the riders ahead of him are very, very strong. We would have needed other circumstances to get a better result, but that’s fine. The momentum is good. The guys know that they will all get their chance according to the profile. To keep on performing just boosts our confidence”. “As a team, we have been in all the stages’ top-10 since Utrecht,” recalled Quentin, now twelfth overall, 51 seconds behind Roglic. “This shows that the group is strong. We must continue this way to come closer to victory very soon”.