Nairo Quintana: I don't like there being three leaders

Nairo Quintana has said that he doesn’t like the idea of Movistar taking three leaders to a Grand Tour as they did this year’s Tour de France. The Colombian also confirmed that his 2019 season would centre around the Tour de France.

Movistar brought Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde to the Tour de France this year, but had a disappointing race with Landa their best-placed rider in seventh place and Quintana in 10th. They were set to apply the same tactic to the Vuelta a Espana but were unable to as Landa crashed and broke two vertebrae at the Clasica San Sebastian.

“I don’t like there being three leaders,” Quintana told France 24 at a press event ahead of his Gran Fondo Nairo Quintana. "It is a way, but personally I don’t like it." He later added that his team manager Eusebio Unzue is adamant that it can bear fruit “he is convinced that this is the way.”

The team is yet to confirm their racing plans for 2019, with the team's first meet-up set for later this month, but it is still possible that we could see all three of Movistar’s Grand Tour contenders come together. Although, it might not be at the Tour as Valverde has hinted at his intentions to go to the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana next season.

During the event on Friday, Quintana confirmed his intentions to focus his season on the Tour de France once again. Since finishing third in the 2016 event, Quintana has suffered two disappointing appearances. Last year’s difficulties were put down to the exhaustion of attempting to ride the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France back to back. However, he believes that he was much stronger season but things just didn’t pan out.

“At the Tour, we arrived really well. I had problems on the first day and I lost a bit of time. I had a really good level, but things just didn’t go how we wanted,” said Quintana.

“I was always arriving [at a race] at a good level. In Suisse I was good, I started the year in Colombia well, in the Vuelta a Catalunya I was good and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. During the season, I always had a pretty good level but I was missing a bit more shine. The stage in the Tour was brilliant, but I was hoping for a lot more.”

Quintana’s stage win in 2018 came at the high-altitude summit finish of the Col du Portet, which peaked out at over 2,000 metres. Quintana is often at his best when the air becomes thin and the unveiling of the Tour de France route in October would have brought a smile to his face, with three summit finishes over 2,000 metres and plenty more time spent at that altitude.

“It is a really demanding Tour, a really good one,” Quintana said of the route. “There are mountains that can favour us because they are mountains at altitude. It is where I live and where I train.”

Quintana also confirmed that he would begin his season in South America with the Vuelta a San Juan followed by the Tour Colombia. Quintana finished second overall to Egan Bernal in the inaugural edition of the Tour Colombia [formerly the Colombia Oro y Paz] but it will be the first time that he has raced in San Juan. He has previously ridden the Tour de San Luis but has since started his seasons in Mallorca and Colombia in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

As well as his goals on the road, next season is also a contract year for Quintana as his current deal with Movistar is set to run out. Quintana has been with the team since 2012 but his relationship with them has appeared strained in recent years and it was rumoured earlier this season that he could leave the team early. There have been some changes within the team set-up with newly appointed directeur sportif Max Sciandri to be Quintana’s trainer for the forthcoming season. It remains to be seen if he’ll be happy to pen another deal with the Spanish squad and Quintana says that he is looking into his prospects but adds that having a strong year is at the forefront of his plans.

"We're already looking at what we do in the future, but for now we're thinking about having a great season with this team that has always treated me well."

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