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Nairo Quintana: I've been in contact with the best at the Tour de l'Ain

quintana tour de l'ain
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) crosses the line on the final stage of the Tour de l'Ain (Image credit: Bettini)

Nairo Quintana ended his second race since the season restart on a high, taking third overall at the Tour de l'Ain after finishing third on the Sunday's final stage up the Grand Colombier.

The Colombian is returning from a five-month spell without racing, and has also contended with a disrupted build-up to the restart after being hit by a car while training last month. Quintana missed over a week of training after the July 3 accident, suffering an injury to his left knee after a motorist clipped him with his car's wing mirror.

Quintana looked close to his early-season form at the Tour de l'Ain, finishing fourth and in the lead group on Lélex Monts-Jura on stage 2 before clinching third behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) on the Grand Colombier.

"The Tour de l'Ain was a good preparation race for me for the Tour de France," Quintana said after the race. "I've been in contact with the best for two days, which gives me some peace of mind."

The 30-year-old, in the midst of his first season at Arkéa-Samsic, enjoyed an impressive start to the season, winning the Tour de la Provence, Tour du Var and the final summit finish at Paris-Nice.

On his return to racing earlier this month, he finished eighth at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, and he feels like he's only improving as the Tour de France draws closer.

"Little by little, I see that I am recovering from my fall in Colombia when I was hit by a car, which cost me ten days without training," he said. "Ventoux was my first race back after lockdown. It wasn't easy on these slopes, but little by little I hope to get better and better."

Arkéa-Samsic directeur sportif Yvon Ledanois praised Quintana for his racing during the three-day Tour de l'Ain, adding that he's building momentum for the Tour, which kicks off in Nice on August 29.

"Four days after his return to racing on the roads of Mont Ventoux, Nairo grabbed a double podium on the Grand Colombier and Tour de l'Ain," Ledanois said. "He ranked just behind the two big favourites of the Tour de France, Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič.

"Nairo continues to gain momentum, slowly, because let's not forget that the start of the Tour de France is more than 20 days away in Nice. Our leader can only get better, and the signals he has just sent are more than interesting."

Only on race lies between Quintana and the Tour, where he'll look improve on the three podium places (second in 2013 and 2015, and third in 2016) that he took in past editions – the mountainous five-stage Critérium du Dauphiné, which starts on Wednesday.

"We will continue to work with seriousness and diligence, as we have been doing since the start of the season, before tackling another great event next week, the Critérium du Dauphiné," said Ledanois. "That will be our last race before the Tour de France."