Colombian cycling’s new wave continued to make its presence felt at the highest level in Morzine on Saturday, as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) danced clear on the Col de Joux-Plane and then held his nerve on the descent to claim victory on stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
In a season that has already seen notable performances from Carlos Alberto Betancur (Acqua&Sapone), Fabio Duarte (Colombia-Coldeportes) and Sky pair Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, it was fitting that the nation claimed a win at the Dauphiné – it was in this race in 1984 that Martin Ramirez claimed a landmark overall victory for the first great generation of Colombian riders in Europe.
It was also somewhat evocative that Quintana’s victory came in Morzine. Luis Herrera won atop Morzine-Avoriaz ahead of Bernard Hinault at the 1985 Tour de France, while three years later, Fabio Parra triumphed in the Alpine town itself after a lengthy solo raid that would ultimately carry him to the third step of the podium in Paris.
“It’s a very good moment for Colombian cycling. We have a good generation of riders so I suppose it’s a bit of a renaissance,” the softly-spoken Quintana told reporters after the finish.
A product of the Colombia es Pasion stable, Quintana first heralded his ability on the world stage in 2010 with overall victory in another race illuminated by his storied compatriots during the 1980s, the Tour de l’Avenir.
“It was a good ambience at Colombia es Pasion, as we were able to do a lot of European races with the under-23 team and that brought us a lot of experience,” Quintana said.
Still only 22 years of age, Quintana joined Movistar ahead of the 2012 season and he got his European-based career off to a fine start when he claimed overall honours at the Vuelta a Murcia. That win was founded on the back of victory on the opening stage at Sierra de Espuña, when Quintana caught and passed Jonathan Tiernan-Locke on the Alto del Collado Bermejo, and then held his advantage on the descent to the finish.
A similar situation unfolded on Saturday at the Dauphiné, as Quintana was the only rider able to break clear of the Sky-dominated yellow jersey group on the Col de Joux-Plane. He proceeded to bridge gracefully to leader Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) and crossed the summit alone at the head of the race. Perhaps equally impressively, he then succeeded in holding his advantage all the way down the sinuous road to the finish.
“It wasn’t a surprise for me to descend like that,” Quintana said. “I had a similar situation when I won at the Vuelta a Murcia in February.”
Quintana bounded up the slopes of the Joux-Plane with such assurance that one might have assumed he was already well familiar with the famous mountain, but he shyly admitted that it was not the case. “I actually didn’t know the last climb but I saw it in the road book and I knew it would be good for me,” Quintana said. A glance at the history books would have told him the same thing.