Quintana ready for Giro d'Italia fight

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) returns to Europe this week ahead of his tilt at the Giro d’Italia’s general classification.

Despite only turning 24 at the beginning of the year, Quintana has high ambitions for his first Grand Tour as a general classification leader. “We can win, but we also have to be realistic. Not winning will result in more frustration for me and for the people,” he said in a press conference hours before he hopped on a plane to Spain.

“If I don’t finish in the first three it will be a little frustrating. But I am young, I am still learning and I will continue to work every day in the coming years to continue to mature in order to fight for the title of the Tour de France," he said.

After his performance at the Tour de France last season, Quintana goes into the Giro as the big favourite. The Colombian obviously has confidence in his own abilities, but he’s aware that there are plenty of contenders looking to take their own glory on the Corsa Rosa.

“You can lose it in the first week, so you have to be very attentive,” the Movistar rider said. “Joaquim Rodríguez is possibly my biggest rival. He had some difficulty in the Ardennes, with two crashes, but without consequences. He will be very good. Rigoberto [Urán] will be very hard. He has trained very well and will be a competitor I have to keep in mind.

“Cadel Evans has been a quite superior to many other rivals and he won in (Giro del) Trentino. I know that he can do good things. I also have to think about (Domenico) Pozzovivo from AG2R, who has been on good form in Trentino and also did well in Liège.”

Learning to be a leader

Quintana has played the supporter role for Alejandro Valverde, since signing for Movistar in 2012. The Colombian has been given a few chances to lead at the smaller stage races, but these were few and far between. An opportunity to show what he could do at the Tour de France fell into his lap when Valverde suffered an inopportune puncture during a windy stage 13. Quintana was the only Movistar rider left with a decent shot at the general classification and rose to the occasion by finishing second overall.

Since Paris, there has been speculation as to when the talented Colombian would get a solid opportunity of his own. It was finally confirmed in January that he would head the nine-man team at the Giro d’Italia. Moving from domestique to team leader has been a steep learning curve for the Colombian.

“To train to be a leader of the team is not easy, but you have to be when you have good legs,” he explained. “Before they would say go here or go there. Now I am the one who does that. I have improved in this, but day by day I am learning things that you thought you knew, but in reality you didn’t.”

Quintana will be going into the Giro with no racing in his legs since the Volta a Catalunya, after his preparation race the Vuelta a Asturias was cancelled for financial reasons. Quintana has spent the last few weeks training in his native Colombia.

It’s not just cancelled races that have changed things for Quintana. The beginning of this year saw the birth of his first child and he’s been finding it hard to find the right balance as he gears up for the Giro.

“I am good, I like the roll of father, although it also changes a lot. They (his family) are helping me a lot in the house,” he said. “It has been difficult to enjoy my daughter, a beautiful girl. I have done a very demanding preparations and always with risk that I arrive at the house and I can’t relax well, but I have luck because she behaves very well.”

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