In 2013 Nairo Quintana was the big revelation of the grand tours and people have great expectations for him to repeat his lofty results in 2014. While he admits that the course for the Giro d'Italia suits him perfectly, he is also attracted by the Tour de France for its magnitude and still hasn't decided which grand tour will be his main target.
Since his win in the 2010 Tour de l'Avenir, Nairo Quintana has been regarded as a potential grand tour winner and 2013 was the year when he finally proved that he indeed has the talents required to fight with the best in a three-week race. In the Tour de France, he was the only rider to really challenge Chris Froome and was rewarded with a runner-up spot, the polka-dot and white jerseys and a fabulous stage win on the stage to Annecy-Semnoz.
With overall wins in the Vuelta a Burgos and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco completing an outstanding year for the tiny Colombian, he now carries the weight of great expectations on his shoulders. Cycling fans all over the world expect him to confirm his potential by either going back to France in an attempt to challenge Froome or show his splendid climbing abilities on the Italian mountains in the Giro d'Italia.
Quintana and his Movistar team still hasn't decided whether the Colombian will focus on the French or the Italian race but this weekend team manager Eusebio Unzue indicated that his was leaning towards sending Quintana to the Giro and Alejandro Valverde to the Tour. The duo could combine forces to offer the team a two-pronged attack in the Vuelta a Espana.
"We will think about it along the way because it has not yet been decided which grand tour I will do," Quintana said according to Biciciclismo. "The Giro and the Tour are equal now."
Quintana has the benefit of knowing the courses for both races before making his final decision. For the second year in a row, Tour organizers have planned a race that suits the climbers like Quintana and offer five summit finishes on La Planche des Belles Filles (Stage 10), Chamrousse (Stage 13), Risoul (Stage 14), Pla d'Adet (Stage 17) and Hautacam (Stage 18) and a tricky finish on the wall in Gerardmer (Stage 8) for Quintana to excel. However, the race also contains a 54km mostly flat time trial on the penultimate stage and a tricky, potentially windy first week which includes a stage on the feared cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix.
"The Tour is the Tour and has a fairly interesting course although some stages, like the one with the cobbles, don't suit me and the final time trial is long," he said. "If I want to fight for the podium, I need to get there with some advantage. The Tour is a fabulous race which has always fascinated me and I like to race in France."
The Giro has a reputation of being more suited to climbers and the 2014 edition will be no exception. 9 uphill finishes - Viggiano (Stage 5), Montecassino (Stage 6), Montecopiolo (Stage 8), Sestola (Stage 9), Oropa (Stage 14), Montecampione (Stage 15), Val Martello (Stage 16), Panarotta (Valsugna) (Stage 18) and Monte Zoncolan (Stage 20) - and a mountain time trial on Monte Grappa is a treat for Quintana and he has been benefited by the recent course modifications that have made the time trial in Barolo much more hilly than originally planned.
"The Giro is complete and perfect for me," he said. "The time trial is now also more favourable to me and will be spectacular but let's wait to see what the boss [Unzue] says."
While Quintana still hasn't decided which race he will do, his goals are already clear.
"Of course it will be difficult to match this season but it is not impossible," he said. "If I work as I always do, things should go well. The goal is the podium in a grand tour."
Quintana has been tipped to already win a grand tour in 2014 and the long-term objective for the Colombian is indeed to triumph in a three-week race. The greatest stage races will be the focus in the foreseeable future.
"I see myself as a rider for three-week races because I like those events and will work to improve in them," he said. "People want me to win one. I work for it and hope to achieve it someday. I don't know when I will do it. To win all three? It would be nice but it will not be easy. At the moment I prefer to keep my feet on the ground. I also like weeklong stage races."
Yesterday Quintana outlined the first part of his schedule. He will return to competition at the Tour de San Luis in January and if the birth of his child permits, he will be at the start in the Challenge Mallorca in early February.
His first target will be the Paris-Nice where he hopes to erase his bad memories from last year when a crash dashed his hopes of a podium finish despite his 3rd place in the final time trial on the Col d'Eze. Afterwards, he will do the Volta a Catalunya where he won a mountain stage and was 4th in 2013.
"San Luis, Mallorca, Paris-Nice, Catalunya," he said. "That is the plan. I would like to be competitive and have a good rhythm in the Paris-Nice. I have a bad taste after my fall this year and want to make amends."
However, he added that he may do the Tirreno-Adriatico instead if the team plans to send him to the Giro d'Italia.
Quintana has now returned to Colombia and will stay in South America until his first child has been born which is expected to happen in late January or early February.
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