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“Froome! But we can’t forget Contador who is very smart and still very strong. They are my main rivals now.”

Photo: Sirotti




20.11.2015 @ 07:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

As a 21-year-old youngster, Nairo Quintana arrived at Eusebio Unzue’s Movistar team. Four seasons later, he has grown faster than anyone expected and won a Giro d'Italia and twice been second in the Tour de France. The Colombian is now ready for a big year in which he will finally try to win the Tour and also goes for glory at the Rio Olympics and in the Vuelta a Espana.

”The years go by and it seems like yesterday when I first joined this fantastic team,” he told BiciCiclismo at the first gathering of the Movistar team. “They have been four fantastic years in which they have helped me to grow and achieve results.


”Now I am a leader but that does not lead you anywhere. You have to win on the road. But the important thing is to stay where I am.”


In the last few years, Quintana has been sharing the leadership with Alejandro Valverde but as retirement draws closer for the Spaniard, the Colombian will soon be the sole captain.


”Yes, the papers show that,” he said when asked about Valverde’s transition of leadership. “But it is also important that you don’t force anything. He is still going strong in his races and he is surely going to do well at the Giro.”


This year Quintana got closer than ever to the yellow jersey in Paris and many believe that he would have won the race if he had not missed a split in the crosswinds on stage 2.


“I do not know if I could have won but I was closer to the win,” he said. ”In 2013 it was different because it was something I encountered along the way and that helped me to grow. The challenge this year was to reach that level in that moment. I have confirmed that progression and above all I have shown that I can win in the coming years.”


In addition to his second place in the Tour, Quintana was fourth in the Vuelta and won Tirreno-Adriatico after a storming ride on the snowy stage to the top of the Monte Terminillo. He has no regrets about his season.


“I am pleased to be able to focus everything on a target,” he said. “I won in a strong moment on the Terminillo, with snow, and the rivals were all there. It is very prestigious.”


Quintana feels very comfortable in the Movistar team and the family atmosphere will only be made greater by the fact that there will be three Colombians in next year’s squad, with Quintana being joined by his brother Dayer, Winner Anacona and new signing Carlos Betancur.


“It is important,” he said about his team. “We have worked together closely and have peace and stability to do business as usual.”

”Every year we get a new Colombian so in ten years it is a Colombian team,” he added with a laugh. “It’s a joy to have compatriots in the team and that we have Eusebio’s confidence. We have rarely seen four Colombians in a team.”


Next year Quintana faces tough opposition in the Tour. Chris Froome will try to defend his title and Alberto Contador is trying to end his career on a high. However, Quintana does not hesitate when asked about his main rival.


“Froome,” he replied. “But we can’t forget Contador who is very smart and still very strong. They are my main rivals now.”


Quintana again underlines what he has done a few times in the past: that a grand tour double is doable.


“I am convinced that you can do two grand tours with guarantees,” he said. “ Yes, you can, but first we go to the goal we have made, the Tour, with calm.”


In 2016, Quintana’s Colombian region Boyaca may have its own international team.


“During the past year they have worked to ensure a law about financial resources for cycling in Boyaca, mainly based on training,” he said. “So it is possible that we will see Boyacá Race of Champions, the project name, on the road, and I've worked on what I could. We have great enthusiasm and hopefully we can be great figures in Colombian cycling.”


Colombian cycling was dealt a blow when Team Colombia folded. On the other hand, six continental teams have been registered.


“It's not bad,” Quintana said. “But they are Continental teams and the other team was professional and had good riders. It was not consolidated. Many people, especially in Colombia, feel that void. Now I think that we have to build a good Colombian team to fill the gap that was left and be back at the elite level in 2017 and 2018.


Quintana specifically points to the Manzana Postobon team.


“Yes, it is on the right path,” he said. “They have always based the project on training of talents and some of them are now here. They want to take another step, slowly, and I think they can be on the right track.”



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