Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has been edging back up the general classification, after a rollercoaster opening two weeks. He was involved in the stage six pile-up at Montecassino, which left him with a leg injury, and spent much of the second week with a cold.
Quintana began as the race favourite and is still confident that he can make up for the problems he suffered earlier in the race. “I'm feeling my legs better with every single day passing by, and I hope to fight for the podium, at least. Despite all problems I had, I'm still here,” Quintana said during the rest day.
The biggest challenge of Quintana’s new found health will be snow covered climbs of the Gavia and the Stelvio. Coming from Colombia, Quintana is well used to riding in the hot weather, but he says that he’s not afraid of the cold. “I don't prefer it to heat, but it doesn't do really bad for me either,” he explains.
Stage 16 will be one of the toughest tests for the peloton, if not the hardest. With a rest day behind them, Quintana thinks he’ll have to be on his toes right from the start. “With all three climbs things become different: riders will be more tired at the end, whereas all of them will feel like they have a chance with only one climb, even more with the rest day in between.”
The fight for pink
With five days in the mountains to come its still all to play for and Quintana isn’t going to count out anyone.
“(Rigoberto) Urán has the advantage, and even he's losing a bit of time every day at the moment, it's not a big gap at the finish,” he said. “I still consider Pozzovivo as a big favourite - he's strong, and so is his team. He had a bad day yesterday and we don't know how he will react to that, but I'm still counting him in. Evans lost more time and seems like he's losing his strength.”
The Colombian gained time on his rivals this weekend, and now sits only 2:40 behind the race leader Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Quintana now has a week to close the gap to his compatriot, beginning with the stage to Val Martello. With his illness and injury worries behind him, he’s not going to waste any moment to do just that.
"I have made up time in these last few days… our idea for tomorrow (Tuesday) is gaining as much time as possible,” said Quintana. “From what's left, the mountain time trial is the stage I think we will see the biggest gaps. In normal conditions, it favours me more than Urán because I'm a better climber, but we have yet to see. I should be doing really well there, but he's at 100% at the moment while I'm not.”
If either Uran or Quintana take the victory, they will become the first Colombian to do so. There is obviously a drive and determination to succeed from the 24-year-old, but he wouldn’t be too upset if Urán rode into Trieste in pink. “If I don't win, I prefer him to do it, and for Colombia, the important thing is having a countryman winning, I think.”
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