Nairo Quintana has returned to his native Tunja, Colombia to train at altitude and prepare for his big goal of the year, the Giro d'Italia. "Of course I think about winning it," he told Biciciclismoweb, "but I have to be careful. My opponents will also come well prepared and with the same ambition."
In a season where most of the Grand Tour favorites have already shown what they are capable of, Quintana already proved successful in the Tour de San Luis in January. The Colombian climber came in second in the Tirreno-Adriatico and was fifth in the Volta a Catalunya behind Joaquim Rodríguez and Alberto Contador.
"Of course it bothers me to be beaten. But you must understand that the other riders are strong as well. Sometimes I beat them and now they have beaten me. From this moment I have to train well at home, climb a little higher. But I am close to my level and then I need to maintain it to the Giro."
Quintana trains at altitude with his Movistar teammate Jonathan Castroviejo. "We get along well. It's his first time at altitude here at Tunja. The weather is good. In Catalunya it was cold but you have to do that type of racing too. If it is cold in the Giro, you have to deal with that."
When Quintana was in Italy he already did a reconnaissance for the important stages in the Giro. "I rode up the Zoncolan and did the uphill time trial to Monte Grappa. Zoncolan is very hard and very steep. And it's the penultimate day of the Giro. The time trial [stage 19] to Monte Grappa is quite long. You have to have the legs but also have to stay focussed. It's a stage that can define the overall classification a bit."
Quintana will not defend his title in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which starts on Monday. "Depending on how I feel I want to race the Vuelta al Asturias or maybe the Tour de Romandie before the Giro."
The runner-up in last year's Tour de France still thinks of the Tour. "I have always been grateful to the Tour de France, to the organization and to France in general. I have great memories from 2010 when I won the Tour de l'Avenir. That race opened doors to big teams for me. Of course I am not forgetting the Tour de France. This year is about a good result in the Giro. I get extra experience in three-week stage races which prepares me better for next year's Tour."