Quintana confident about his Tour de France preparations

"Froome is not an enemy. He is a rival," says Movistar leader

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) says that he will follow the same racing and training programme as he aims to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France this summer. Quintana has twice been the runner up at the Tour de France but he is convinced it is more down to misfortune than bad preparation.

“My way of training has been good,” Quintana said during a sit down with the media at the recent Tour de San Luis. “You saw that the time I lost last year was because of an error or bad luck, not because of a lack of form. So I think the preparation is good. What I do want to plan is the type of races to be able to reach the Tour not so saturated with racing, but with good training.”

Quintana began his season back in January at the Tour de San Luis with reasonable success. Despite a crash on stage five, which resulted in his teammate Adriano Malori being taken to hospital, Quintana went on to finish third overall while his brother Dayer took overall victory. His next race is the Colombian national championships next weekend, before flying to Europe for the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco.

His season is built around the Tour de France but he is eager to get some more solid results on the board before then.

“Whenever I start a race, whether I'm in good condition or poor condition, I always fight to be on the podium, at least, or to win. It is one of my characteristics, and the team has got used to my way of thinking,” said Quintana. “When I don't feel able, and the team takes me, I have to respond. But always taking into account the training cycle that leads me to where I have to go.”

Quintana’s two second places at the Tour de France came in 2013 and 2015 and on both occasions he was beaten by Team Sky’s Chris Froome. At the second time of asking, Quintana managed to close the gap to Froome from over four minutes to just 1:12 in the overall classification. After the final mountain stage to L'Alpe d'Huez, Froome admitted that Quintana had put him on the ropes and he had been close to cracking.

The result was a major step forward for the 26-year-old but he places no more emphasis on either performance.

“The first time was a surprise find, so to speak. No one gave me any presents, and I had to suffer for it, but I wasn't conscious of what I was doing and what I had done,” he explained. “Starting last year, my preparation, targeting the Tour, being much more meticulous... it is very different. It means you achieve things with much more effort and, that's what makes the difference between the first and the second. But they have the same importance to me.”

Quintana will have to face off against Froome yet again if he hopes to better his Tour de France record. The two have gone up against each other many times in recent years and will go head to head for the first time in 2016 in Catalunya. They are both rivals but the Colombian also describes a mutual understanding between himself and the two-time Tour de France champion.

"Froome is not an enemy. He is a rival, logically, on the bike. There is a rivalry - it's normal, we are on different teams - but we have never argued or used strong language with each other,” Quintana said. “We have understood each other at times, in the last Tour. But we don't talk much, apart from greetings, and he seems to be a good person, but we haven't had any more communication than that.”

The young Quintana

During the lengthy interview, the topic often veered towards Quintana’s youth and his early involvement in the sport. “I started late. I got interested in cycling very late,” explained Quintana.” I was already watching the Tour de France, when Alberto was winning. I was fascinated by the sheer scale of the operation, the bicycles that the professionals used. My dream was to have a bicycle like that one day, and to win the Tour de France.”

Quintana was a prolific climber even in his early years, winning hill climbing competitions and finishing third in a mountain time trial despite being too young for the competition. It’s hard to imagine the diminutive Colombian doing something else but when asked what he would do if he wasn’t a climber he was quick to respond.

“I'd have liked to have excelled on the track,” he said with a smile. “I rode on the track - I almost never trained, but I used to go to track meets too, and I liked them, I like them, because it is a real show where you pay, like football, if you go into the stadium or in the velodrome you have to pay to see the exhibition. And it's admirable to see how they handle the bikes. The public sometimes doesn't appreciate it: bikes without brakes, only one gears, with so many bunched together at high speed, and then they manoeuvre very well, and it is one more sport for the bicycle.”

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