Nairo Quintana will be one of three leaders at his Movistar team – along with Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde – for the start of the Tour de France on July 7, and the Colombian has talked about how he expects the race to go.
In a team media release ahead of the Tour, Quintana says he's heading to this year's race in a much more relaxed state, having reduced his number of race days to be less tired, having ridden the Giro d'Italia before last year's Tour, which proved to be too difficult.
"It's been a bit different for me so far this season – calmer," said Quintana. "We've fared well in all four of the stage races I've taken part in. I was second in Colombia [Oro y Paz] and at Catalunya, with the latter won by Alejandro. I was then fifth at País Vasco, where we also got to the podium with Mikel, and third at the Tour de Suisse, claiming a stage victory along the way.
"We've tackled all those races in a bit more of a relaxed way, even helping out our teammates at some of them, and trying to build our form slowly but steadily before the biggest goal of the season."
Quintana explained how, after País Vasco, he returned to Colombia to train at altitude, riding long days to try to replicate the Tour's long mountain stages.
"We really focused our efforts this year on tackling longer climbs, and also on improving our consistency in time trials," he said. "The main goal has been to reach the Tour with fresher legs. In previous seasons, we'd come to the start after bigger efforts, going full-gas at a number of week-long stage races. We've had some good racing before the Tour this year, but we just reduced our racing load, and cut down on how much we were travelling back and forth to those races. That should all help me get to this race fresher and in better morale."
When it comes to the big question of how that three-way leadership will work, Quintana didn't hold back.
"It's important to have such a strong team," the 28-year-old said. "We've got riders who are able to excel on all terrains. It's probably the best squad I've had with me for a Grand Tour.
"We've got to remain together, work hard – that's the way we can become the perfect team. Mikel, Alejandro and I, well, we've already shared leadership roles this season and in the past, and it's gone well for us. We got on well with each other and we haven't gone through any real troubles," he said, just a little ominously.
"As the race develops, the scenario for us should get clearer. Let's see how things stand after the pavé stage [stage 9, Arras to Roubaix]. It would be phenomenal for us to have got through that stage with all three of us in a great position. We're three, and we've got to take advantage of that strength in numbers to chase the victory.
"Our goal is winning the Tour. It's the Grand Tour that I'm still missing from my palmarès – one that I've always dreamed of," said Quintana. "Let's hope we can get safely through the first few days, working together as we've always done, and hopefully we can beat our rivals and win the Tour."
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