Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is setting his eyes on a grand tour podium for the 2014 season. Which one? Well, any one would just fine, muchas gracias.
The 23-year-old Colombian sensation, who rode to second, along with the climber’s and best young rider’s jerseys, in his Tour de France debut this year (he also won a stage), said he remains undecided whether he will race the Giro d’Italia or the Tour in 2014.
“We’ll think about it as the season goes along, because we’re still not decided if I will race the Giro or the Tour,” Quintana said in a press release Monday upon his return to Colombia for the Christmas holiday.
“The Tour is the Tour, it has an interesting route,” he continued, “even though some stages, like the cobblestones, do not favor me, and the final time trial is very long. As a result, if I want to fight for the podium, I’d have to arrive (to the time trial) with an advantage.”
Quintana has yet to race the Giro, but the Italian grand tour, with no less than nine uphill finales in 2014, seems ideal for his dynamic climbing style.
“The Tour is a fabulous race, one that’s always fascinated me, and I like to race in France,” he said. “But the Giro is a more complete race, one that’s ideal for me. Also, the (Giro) time trial is better for me, and it could be spectacular, but let’s wait to see what the boss [team manager Eusebio Unzué] has to say.”
So far, Movistar general manager Unzué has not yet publicly revealed which grand tour Quintana will focus on.
Unzué has been cautious about putting too much pressure on Quintana too soon. He might want to start Quintana in the Giro, where would be a top favorite to win, rather than throw him back into the challenge of the Tour with all the pressure of having to live up to his spectacular debut in 2013.
It’s already confirmed that Movistar captain Alejandro Valverde will once again focus on the Tour in what could be his final shot at trying to reach the podium. Valverde was in ideal position, sitting second overall after coming out of the Pyrénées this year, but he suffered a mechanical in the crosswinds in stage 13, lost 10 minutes, and opened the door for Quintana’s fairytale ride through the Alps.
Quintana, who also won the overall at both the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain, admitted it will be a challenge to top his spectacular 2013 season.
“It’s obvious that to try to equal my season last year will be difficult, but it’s not impossible either,” he said. “I believe if I keep working like I have, things will turn out OK. The objective is to reach the podium of a grand tour.”
Quintana met with his Movistar teammates in Spain this month to outline the 2014 season.
Quintana already has the first few months of the coming season mapped out. He will debut at the Tour de San Luís in Argentina in January, followed by his European debut at the Mallorca Challenge in Spain in February. In March, he will either race Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico, before the Volta a Catalunya.
By then, the team will have decided if Quintana is racing the Giro or the Tour. There’s still no word if he might also try to race the Vuelta a España as well. The Spanish tour’s route will be unveiled in early January. A focus on the Giro could open the door for Quintana to race the Vuelta.
For Quintana, the future is clear. He wants to win grand tours, ideally all three of them.
“I see myself as a three-week stage racer, because I like those races a lot and we will keep working at becoming better at them,” he said. “The public wants me to win one, and that’s what I am working for, to win a grand tour some day. I cannot say what year I will achieve it. To win all three? That would be something special, and of course it’s not easy. Right now, I prefer to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.”