After two second places in the Tour de France behind Chris Froome (Team Sky), when it comes to ruling the roost in cycling’s biggest bike race, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) believes next July it will be time for what he calls “a change of dynasties.”
For the second successive time at the Tour de France, Quintana emerged as Froome’s main challenger in 2015. The main difference was that this time, unlike in 2013, Quintana had no advantage of being a relatively unknown quantity who could fly ‘under the radar’. And yet, he did far better.
Although, losing time on the rain-lashed stage 2 was not on Quintana’s plans, the Colombian then rode well through the cobbled stages and tricky finishes of the first week and Movistar were a mere four seconds behind BMC in the team time trial. Although Quintana, like all Froome’s other rivals, lost a significant chunk of time at La Pierre St. Martin, he was the best-placed of them, taking third behind Froome and Richie Porte. Last but not least, in the third week, Quintana dropped Froome both at La Toussuire and Alpe d’Huez, the latter an ascent described by Froome, at that point suffering from a chest infection, as “touch and go at some points”, with the yellow jersey up for grabs.
Froome tenaciously held on to his lead, though, and the final result in Paris was that Quintana ended second overall for the second time in three years behind Froome. But, having reduced Froome’s overall advantage in 2015 from 4-20 to just over a minute, the 26-year-old Colombian confirms that the yellow jersey of the Tour de France will be at the top of his list for next July, and that after two [unsuccessful] attempts, the third time could be when things finally change.
“Everybody is beatable and nobody’s immortal,” Quintana told Cyclingnews during Movistar’s first training camp for 2016. “Chris Froome is an extremely strong rider; he’s won very important races. But I’ve been showing I’ve been getting stronger as each year goes by, and that means I can beat him.”
Quintana recognises that Froome’s superiority at La Pierre St. Martin in last year’s Tour was unquestionable, even though “I was in good shape, and the data from that day shows that. Looking around, behind me, there was a long line of rivals who had cracked beforehand.
“But if Froome was on an extremely good day that day, and way superior to the rest of us, there were other stages when I could fight back and get time.”
Sky Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said at last year’s Tour that he believed Quintana came into the race “a little bit undercooked” in terms of form and “should have taken the race on earlier". But Quintana, while courteously disagreeing - “everybody is entitled to their own opinion” is all he will say on the matter - says he believes that next year “coming into the race with the same kind of form as 2015 should be enough.
“I will have to see what the Tour route is like in detail, that will affect my build-up a lot,” he added. “There are a lot of variables.” What changes to his program compared to 2014 that are known for now are that he will only do one Ardennes Classics “probably Liege-Bastogne-Liege” rather than two. Team sources say that he will, unsurprisingly, not be with Valverde in the Belgian cobbled Classics, but the Volta a Catalunya, where he took a stage win in 2013, is a more likely option for Quintana rather than defending his title at Tirreno-Adriatico. However, the Tour of San Luis as his debut, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where he took a stunning victory in 2013 and Romandie are all likely back on the menu.
Following this first block of racing, Quintana will then head back to Colombia, taking part in one stage race - “which, we have yet to decide” - before the Tour. Then it is onto the biggest challenge of the season and after three Team Sky Tour de France wins in four years, where Quintana argues that “It’s time for a change of dynasties. That’s what I’m here for.”
After the Tour, Quintana may well go on to cross swords with Froome and other top rivals from July once again at the Olympic Games, where the road-race’s hilly route suits him hugely. “I’d love to try for a result there. If I finish the Tour in good shape and feeling motivated, I’ll be heading to Rio for sure.” First, though, will come his third attempt at ending Sky’s domination of the Tour de France.
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