Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has downplayed the significance of his head-to-head meeting with Chris Froome (Team Sky) at next month's Tour Colombia. In a press conference in Bogota on Monday, Quintana pointed out that both riders would be lining out in the Colombian race with the principal aim of accumulating racing kilometres as they build towards the Tour de France.
"It's very early to start thinking about different strategies," Quintana said, according to Marca. "You have to see how we're each going and how each team is working, but in truth he is like any other rival. He will surely come with the same objectives as me: to start [his season] and do the kilometres to get to the Tour de France in very good shape."
Quintana endured a disappointing 2018 season, placing 10th overall at the Tour and 8th at the Vuelta a España. Despite that setback, the 28-year-old will target the Tour once again this season. He will be accompanied in Movistar's Tour line-up by Mikel Landa, while world champion Alejandro Valverde is set to ride the Giro d'Italia.
Now in its second edition – the inaugural event was labelled Colombia Paz y Oro – the Tour Colombia remains a six-day event, but has shifted to a slightly later date. The race gets underway with a team time trial in Medellin on February 12 and concludes with a finish on Alto de Palmas on February 17.
This year's Tour Colombia will take place in the Antioquia department, while Quintana's home department of Boyaca is pencilled in to host the 2020 edition of the race. Quintana placed third overall in last year's Colombia Paz y Oro, which was won by fellow countryman Egan Bernal (Team Sky).
Bernal is due to return to the race this year alongside Froome, Tao Geoghegan Hart and new signing Ivan Sosa. Quintana is set to be joined in the Movistar line-up by Carlos Betancur, Winner Anacona, Marc Soler and Richard Carapaz. Valverde confirmed via a video message on Monday that he will not race in Colombia this season, though he pledged to line out at the event in 2020.
"The Tour Colombia is key to the image of the country and it will become one of the most important races," Quintana said.
Quintana will start his season later this month in Argentina, when he makes his debut at the Vuelta a San Juan. He has previously enjoyed early success in Argentina at the now defunct Tour de San Luis, where he won in 2014 and finished third overall in 2015 and 2016.