Movistar team manager, Eusebio Unzué believes that Colombian sensation Nairo Quintana is racing ahead of any predictions made earlier in his career.
“With him, everything is accelerated,” Unzué told Spanish newspaper Diario Vasco. “He won the Tour de l’Avenir, the amateur Colombian time trial championships, then a stage of the Dauphiné, with the whole Sky team behind.”
Quintana has been one of Movistar’s big success stories. The 23-year-old Colombian joined Movistar in 2012 and almost immediately went on to win the Vuelta a Murcia. He now has three more general classification victories to his name and second place, and stage victory, the white jersey, and the king of the mountains jersey at the Tour de France.
“He is premature doing these things. At 23 he is doing spectacular things. Clearly he is of high quality. Nairo is privileged physically and he has a head equally as privileged.”
This season sees the Colombian switch his focus to the Giro d’Italia. The abundance of climbing and a mountain time trial will play into his hands. It will be his first appearance in the Italian grand tour but Quintana will be one of the favourites when the race begins in Belfast. Quintana begins his season at the Tour de San Luis next Monday, where he test his form against Joaquim Rodríguez and Vincenzo Nibali.
A repeat success
Quintana’s performances in 2013 helped to secure the Spanish team the number one spot in the WorldTour rankings. Unzué isn’t counting out a repeat performance in 2014.
"A repeat of 2013 will be difficult because it was very good, but not impossible,” he told Diario Vasco.
The Spanish team took hold of the lead in the UCI’s ranking at the final WorldTour race of the year, the Tour of Beijing, after Beñat Intxausti raced away to win the general classification. While Sky won at some of the biggest races of the year, it was Movistar’s consistency throughout the whole season that put them in top spot.
“It wasn’t a goal, but it was a prize for regularity. We played with the different riders that we had to be competitive,” explained Unzué. While he wouldn’t be drawn on whether this was the best squad in the team’s 34-year history, he did concede that it was the most all-round group of riders.
“In the 90s, the team wasn’t exactly lacking, with Perico Delgado, Julian Gorospe, Miguel Indurain, Bernard Jean François and Alonso Martin.” Who, between them, won over 200 races for the team.
Unzué continued by saying, “It is possible that the Movistar team now is more versatile, with riders of very different profiles and with cyclists who can win more things.”
Quintana and Valverde will lead the grand tour challenges at the Giro and the Tour, bolstered by the arrival of Igor Antón Jon Izagirre from Euskaltel. The loss of Rui Costa to Lampre-Merida will affect the team, but Unzué remains confident that they can continue the year-round success.