Nairo Quintana is heading to the Giro d’Italia this year, but if it were up to him, he’d be racing the Tour de France.
Speaking to journalists at the Movistar team presentation in Madrid on Friday, the 2013 Tour runner-up said the team told him to forget about the Tour this year, and instead race the Giro to win.
“I would have liked to raced the Tour again this year, but the team wants me to go to the Giro,” Quintana said. “The one who pays has the final say.”
Last year, Quintana was a Tour sensation, winning a stage, the climber’s and best young rider’s jerseys, and finishing second behind winner Chris Froome (Sky), an all-time best for South America.
Speculation grew over the winter that Quintana was going to race the Giro instead of returning the Tour, but Friday he confirmed that decision was not his alone.
“I am going to the Giro at the behest of those who are paying my salary,” Quintana said. “It’s a decision that also takes into consideration the interests of the sponsors and [Alejandro] Valverde. … I wanted to go to the Tour, but we don’t have a leader for the Italian tour.”
Valverde, who has never reached the Tour podium, will lead Movistar come July. The veteran Spaniard started the 2013 Tour as the team’s leader, but Quintana took command after Valverde lost more than 10 minutes in crosswinds midway through the race.
Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué said he believes it’s better for Quintana to race the Giro to win rather than return to the Tour with intense pressure to live up to his breakout 2013 performance.
Unzué said Quintana has a better chance to win the Giro than to go up against Froome, and promised to bring a full squad to support him in the Italian tour.
Quintana said he would focus on the Giro with full intentions of victory.
“I hope to make another podium, and if it’s possible, to win the Giro,” Quintana said. “I believe it will go well because I will have a strong team supporting me all the time. … I am still young, so it’s better to go step by step.”
Quintana said the signing of his younger brother, Dayer, will give him “tranquility” and said his strong start of the 2014 season, with overall victory at the Tour de San Luís, will give him a confidence boost.
Early season goals will include such races as the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) ahead of the Giro.
Quintana, however, left no doubt that he’d rather be racing the Tour instead.