Talking to reporters in Avignon during the second rest day of the Tour de France, Colombian rookie Nairo Quintana said he realized he’s an overall winner in the making. “It won’t happen this year,” he warned. “Chris Froome is too strong to be beaten. I need to improve my time trialling and be able to create bigger differences in the climbs. I came to the Tour for learning anyway. For now, it’s too difficult for me to target the yellow jersey but within two years, I believe I can win.”
Since he won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2010, the Movistar rider has the profile of the next pure climber to win the Tour de France, something that has yet to be seen for the first time for Colombia, even though the South American country has been a task force at the French event for three decades. To date, the only Colombian to have worn the yellow jersey was not a real climber, but Lance Armstrong’s teammate Victor Hugo Peña in 2003 after the team time trial. Quintana has two jerseys in sight: polka dot and white.
“It’s super important for Movistar that he’ll make the top three in Paris and I’ll help him to do so,” his teammate Alejandro Valverde indicated. “As for myself, I’d like to win at l’Alpe d’Huez. My situation at the Tour could be better. I’ve been unlucky. Up to the Mont Ventoux, I couldn’t do any better. Normally, my heart rate can go as high as 190 bits/minute, but yesterday I reached a maximum of 180. However, the hardest part of the Tour de France is yet to come. The climbs in the Alps are harder than what we’ve done up to now.”
Quintana admitted that he doesn’t know any of the climbs scheduled for the last week of the Tour. He didn’t recce the stages as he remained in Colombia for training after he won the Volta al Pais Vasco in mid-April. “After the Tour, I’ll ride the Klasika San Sebastian and the Vuelta a Burgos, then I’ll go back to Colombia to prepare for the World Championships,” the best young rider of the Tour de France said. Colombia, which led the WorldTour nations ranking for a short while after the Giro, is set to have an excellent team for the hilly course in Firenze at the end of September.
Valverde announced that he’ll follow a different path to the World Championships. “I’ll take a rest and I’ll go the Vuelta a España,” he said. “I have no problem riding two Grand Tours.” He did so last year and finished second at the Spanish event he won in 2009. Only Alberto Contador preceded him, so the leader of Movistar will start his national Tour with the reputation of the hot favourite.