Quintana: Froome still looks like the big favourite for Tour de France

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has named Chris Froome as the favourite to win the Tour de France but said that missing out on Giro d'Italia victory has not affected his morale ahead of La Grande Boucle.

Quintana has placed on the podium in all three of his Tour appearances to date, but on each occasion – in 2013, 2015 and 2016 – Froome has won the race overall. Although Froome has failed to land a win so far this season and was short of his best at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, Quintana has anointed him as the man to beat next month.

"To me, Froome still looks like the big favourite. He always approaches the Tour perfectly, it's a race he'’s been brilliant at in the past, and I'm sure he'll be at 100 per cent condition in July," Quintana said.

In a lengthy interview released by his Movistar team, Quintana also namechecked Richie Porte (BMC) – "he's shown great abilities that make him a strong contender" – Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) as contenders, together with the Orica-Scott duo of Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves, and Astana's pairing of Fabio Aru and Jakob Fuglsang.

"As I said before, the Giro and the [Tom] Dumoulin success, there's always some sort of surprise, riders you don't count on to get a result and end up contesting the GC," said Quintana, who will have another contender alongside him on the Movistar team, in the shape of Alejandro Valverde.

"His immense strength creates a serious threat to the other rivals, who fear what he can achieve," Quintana said. "It makes you so calm to have him on your team."

No Giro-Tour regrets

By the time the Tour starts on July 1, Quintana will have gone five full weeks without racing after losing the maglia rosa to Dumoulin in the Giro's concluding time trial in Milan. Rather than return to Colombia, Quintana has spent the bulk of his time at his European base in Monaco and also took the opportunity to reconnoitre the Tour's Alpine stages last week.

"I think that it was more important to get some rest and recover well before starting taking on serious training. Those three, four weeks were enough time to put in some good mileage between the two races," Quintana said.

"I'm feeling good on the bike so far this month. I should be getting stronger in the next few days and thus reach the start in the best possible condition. But after all, you can only see where you stand when you're into the race."

Quintana approached the summer aiming to become the first rider to land the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998, and he began the corsa rosa as the favourite for overall victory. Despite landing an impressive win at the Blockhaus at the end of the opening week, Quintana never quite hit his stride in Italy, and the anticipated onslaught on Dumoulin in the final days in the mountains never truly materialised.

"Now that it's a bit longer behind us, I still feel that what I did in the Giro was good," Quintana said. "We were so close to accomplishing our goal, and we claimed a very decent podium finish, with excellent teamwork from all of the squad's members. It was obviously a bit sad not seeing things go as we expected in the end, but that makes me even more hungry and determined to chase the goals left in this season."

Despite his Giro disappointment, Quintana expressed no regrets about deciding to take on the challenge of tackling two Grand Tours in succession. He will draw solace, too, from how his flat third place finish at last year's Tour was followed by overall victory at the Vuelta a España.

"My feelings towards the double haven't changed after the result I got in Italy. We prepared for the Giro and the Tour with an aim to win both, even though we knew it was so difficult," Quintana said. "We were so close to claiming the Giro GC, we weren't able to, but it doesn't matter. We're as focused on completing this double strongly as we were before the Giro. We'll try and get them this time in the Tour."

The Tour route

The 2017 Tour follows a novel route, with only three summit finishes but also a mere 36.5 kilometres of total time trialling. The formula for the opening week, however, will be a familiar one.

"It's all about remaining focused and keeping the front, to try and reach the mountains with a 0-0 on your rivals, no own goals," Quintana said. "I don't know La Planche des Belles Filles, but it should be a significant climb already on day five."

If the brace of Pyrenean stages in the second week ought to bring greater definition to the GC picture, then Quintana maintains that the final days in the Alps will decide the race. "They're just amazing, so hard," he said of the climbs, which include a summit finish on the Col d'Izoard.

Although Quintana suffered the heartache of losing the maglia rosa in the final-day time trial at the Giro, he believes that whoever carries the yellow jersey into the Marseille chrono on the penultimate stage of the Tour will finish atop the podium in Paris the following evening.

"In Marseille, it's a really atypical route, since you've got terrain for time trial specialists and they should take advantage there, but you've also got a hard climb where GC specialists will have to push hard," Quintana said. "Still, I feel like, with all mountains prior to that stage, the one who goes into that final TT in yellow will be almost certain to win."

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