By Daniel McMahon
Raised on a coffee farm in his native Colombia, Lisban Quintero is an amateur rider based in New York City who competes nationally with team CRCA/Foundation. In May, he won his first National Racing Calendar race, Base Camp International, and is the only amateur to win an NRC race this year. Before that, he battled against the top U.S. teams at Speedweek, where he was the first-placed amateur and ninth overall.
VeloNews recently caught up with Quintero to learn more about the rider who upset the pros at Basking Ridge, how he came to be the top amateur in the country, and his dream to race professionally.
VeloNews: You won Base Camp International, an NRC race, with an amateur team that showed up with a total of three riders. How did you beat such a quality field?
Lisban Quintero: In cycling, one day you can feel really good and another day not so good, and that day I felt really good. I like that kind of race, too, a technical criterium. I just tried to conserve as much as I could for the finish. The sprint was slightly uphill, which suited me.
VN: But you didn’t just sit in till the end. Weren’t you were in a break, too?
LQ: There was a breakaway with 10 to go; they had about 20 seconds over the field, and I eventually bridged to them with eight to go. As the laps ticked down, I made sure to leave something in the tank. We got caught, so I just worked to maintain my position at the front. I held my place there, which is probably 80 percent of fieldsprinting. In the end, a guy started sprinting from really far out, and I just followed his wheel till about 200 meters to the finish, then I went.
VN: Is Base Camp your biggest win?
LQ: It’s definitely a big result. I’ve done UCI 2.2 races outside the U.S. and had some success in different countries like China and my native Colombia. Last year I won a stage of the Tour of Hong Kong.
VN: What does winning an NRC race mean to you as you move up as an elite amateur?
LQ: I’ve been doing well in national races this year but also did well last year, when I got top 10s and raced well in the USA Crits series. This year is the first year I’ve been cycling full time, so things are looking good. This is also the first year that I’ve had a coach. I have had to work till now to support my mother, who is deaf, so it was challenging to work and do the necessary training to compete in the biggest races. This season I’m able to focus a lot more on cycling as I’ve gotten more support from my team. Now I think I can be up there with the best riders. I’d like to think that winning an NRC race is a step in the right direction.
VN: How did you manage at Speedweek, where you raced one criterium each day for a week?
LQ: Like the name implies, it’s all about speed. To be in the overall, you’ve got to be placing top 10 or top 15 daily, so I tried to be consistent and stay focused. And there were good teams there, like UnitedHealthcare and Fly V Australia. I didn’t have a good first race, at Athens, but I survived the rain and crashes, and in the following races I got stronger. My best result there was sixth place. I completed all the crits and was ninth overall, as well as the number one amateur rider.
VN: How was it adjusting to crit racing after doing stage races earlier in the year like Redlands and San Dimas?
LQ: Those were good races. I used them for base and preparation for later races, such as Speedweek, which was a goal of mine. It’s hard to do well at San Dimas or Redlands because there are riders coming from Australia who have been training a lot. In the winter here in New York, there really is no way to train properly. So I went to Arizona for a while, and that helped get things started.
VN: Do you ever get intimidated racing against the big teams that have a lot of really strong riders?
LQ: Actually, no. It just makes it more difficult, because if they have a lead-out train, you have to fight for a spot. So it’s important to have a team to support you. I’m not afraid, though, and there is respect among the riders. I know some of the pros and they know me, and they know I can do well. Maybe that’s why I sometimes get the respect from them. If I’m near the front at the finish, maybe they’re going to let me in and maybe get behind me, because there is respect. It’s mutual.
VN: What type of rider do you consider yourself?
LQ: I think I’m an all-arounder, and I like time trials a lot. When racing San Dimas or with the big guys, I’m not top 10 in the time trials, but I can be up there. Everyone says I’m a sprinter, so I guess I’m a sprinter! I really like to get into breaks and pull and work hard. So I can either break away solo or, if it’s a fieldpsrint, I can do that, too. If it’s not a long climb, say, just a 2-kilometer climb, I can do well.
VN: Do you see yourself doing well in stage races?
LQ: For stage races you need support from a team to work for you and protect you. It’s so much different than crits, where it’s just one day and so fast. But I like stage races a lot. I get stronger day by day when I do them.
VN: You raced for a year in Spain and have raced in several countries. How did racing abroad help you?
LQ: When you race in Europe you know what real cycling is about, and it’s very hard there. Here, it’s so many crits, and it’s short, fast races. It’s different. But that experience has helped me become more versatile and gain experience doing different types of racing with different challenges.
VN: What challenges are there for an elite rider based in New York City?
LQ: It’s difficult to train properly in for national races, and people told me for a long time that I had to go to California or someplace on the West Coast. But I’m still here, and I’m doing well. It’s great that there are so many cyclists here, too. In races in Brooklyn there are 110 riders who show up, and the quality of the racing is good. But once you leave and do the national races, you see the different levels and the speed. When I’m home, I like to do the club races in Central Park. They are not easy races, with everyone attacking, but I mainly use them for training. I try to follow the attacks and chase everything, and that makes for good workouts.
VN: What motivates you to do well in cycling?
LQ: Definitely my parents. They have always supported me to do well in sports. My dad actually still races, as a Cat. 3 rider. He’s pretty good, too. He used to win a lot of races in Colombia. I just love racing and riding my bike. I really enjoy training. My father taught me that when it comes to training, quality is more important than quantity.
VN: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
LQ: I want to do well at Univest, especially in the road race. Along the way we have all the weekend NRC races and the USA Crits series. You can’t always win, but I want to be top 5 or top 10. That’s my goal: to be at least top 10 every race.
VN: Looking ahead, what do you hope for in 2011?
LQ: I’m going to take the same serious approach next year as I have this year. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a pro contract with a good team. The main thing is that the team I ride for has good organization. That’s important.
Daniel McMahon is editor of cyclingreporter.com, a contributor-based blog devoted to road and cyclocross racing in the New York City area.