Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has insisted he has learnt his lesson from last year's Tour de France, saying that this time around he will be ready for attacks from Chris Froome on the first day in the Pyrenees on Friday.
Last year, Froome surprised all his rivals with a fierce but well-planned attack on the slopes of La Pierre Saint Martin. Quintana was the best of the rest, but Movistar has tagged this year's Tour de France as Quintana's #sueñoamarillo – his yellow dream –and he is convinced it could be his year. If he wins the Tour de France, Quintana will become the first ever Colombian winner.
Starting from the Col d'Aspin during today's opening stage in the Pyrenees, we can expect Quintana to sit tight on Froome's back wheel and be ready for the Briton's trademark high-cadence accelerations.
"When he goes, it's hard to stay with him but I've trained specifically to respond to his attacks and not lose ground," Quintana told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"In the past, on Mont Ventoux, and La Pierre Saint Martin, I was the rider who lost least time to Chris but that's not enough anymore. I think I've improved as a rider and matured too. I've learnt how to manage my strength and understand the moment when I've got to be 100% ready, while also being relaxed and confident."
Quintana has gradually built his form during the 2016 season to be ready and at his very best during the Tour de France. He won the Vuelta a Catalunya on his European debut in March, won the Tour de Romandie in early May and then worked hard at home at altitude in Colombia to prepare for the Tour.
He spent almost two months away from racing but tested his form and got the answers he was looking for during an aggressive ride that landed victory at the Route de Sud – on some of the same roads where he will now face Froome, Alberto Contador, Tejay van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot and all the other overall contenders in this year's Grand Boucle.
Quintana is a pure climber and believes this year's mountainous Tour de France route tips things in his favour.
"When I saw the route I was happier than in the past. The mountains are my terrain and give me an edge, there's even climbs in the time trials," he pointed out. "I've also got the full support of the Movistar team and I've no problem handling the responsibility thanks to their help."