Nairo Quintana is only 25, with one Grand Tour title to his name, but he is already dreaming of elevating himself to the realm of the greats of the sport.
The Movistar rider, who won the Giro d'Italia in 2014 and has twice finished second at the Tour de France, has stated his intentions to go for a Grand Tour double in the near future. Only nine riders in history have won two three-week races in the same year, the last being Alberto Contador in 2008 with the Giro-Vuelta – but the Spaniard was proof of the scale of the task this year as he came up short in his Giro-Tour bid.
"I know that it's not easy, but it's possible," said Quintana in an interview with Colombian newspaper El Espectador. "It's difficult and few have done it, but it's a big challenge for the future and I'm going to give it a go. Why not dream of winning two Grand Tours?
"If I fall short, it's news and they're going to say, 'Nairo Quintana couldn't win the two Grand Tours', but there will have been something to talk about. At the very least I'm going to try – there's not the slightest bit of doubt about that."
It is not clear which two Grand Tours Quintana will target, or when he will take on the challenge. He will ride both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana next year, as he did this year, but 2016 will be characterised by a different sort of double. The Tour is the primary objective but Quintana is equally motivated to achieve Olympic glory shortly after Paris, on a course that looks tough and selective.
"From now I am committed to going to Rio to win the gold medal," said the Colombian, who was recently selected as one of Team Visa's 30 supported riders for the Games.
"The Vuelta, I know I must ride it, but my priority without a doubt is the The Tour de France," he added. "The Tour, I know that's doable. I have been on the podium twice and that give me faith that I can go back and win it. I want to improve myself and be the best. We hope to have good fortune and that the bad luck distances itself from us so we can win."
The bad fortune Quintana mentions refers back to this year's Tour, where he was caught on the wrong side of a split in the first week and lost critical time to Chris Froome. He fought back in the mountains later in the race but had to settle for second place on the podium behind the Brit for a second time, after the same outcome in 2013. Quintana can be happy with a season that also included an overall win at Tirreno-Adriatico and a fourth-placed at the Vuelta a Espana, though there will always be that twang of disappointment.
"I'm very satisfied although, clearly, you always want more. Lot's of things go through your head, but you can't go back in time," he said.
"I didn't win the Tour due to an unfortunate time loss in the first week, but in the end I battled back and got myself on the podium. And in the Vuelta a Espana, despite being pretty ill, I finished fourth, which isn't bad at all.
"The good thing is that many opportunities sill remain," he added. "I'm barely 25 and we've seen people winning Grand Tours at 40. I don't plan on carrying on to that age, but I know that I have many good years ahead of me. I never give up."
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