FOSSANO, Italy (VN) — Nairo Quintana is more than three and a half minutes off the maglia rosa. So why all the smiles around the Movistar team bus on Friday morning?
They’re believers, and despite a Giro d’Italia full of setbacks, the team has full faith that Quintana can pull off a miracle comeback in a grueling final week loaded with race-changing climbs.
“The real Giro begins this weekend. All the mountains remain ahead of us. We still have hope,” Movistar sport director José Luís Arrieta told VeloNews. “Considering the problems we’ve had, and the time lost in the time trials, we are still within range.”
Despite a string of setbacks since the Giro started in Belfast, including a heavy crash in stage 6 and a chest cold that saw Quintana taking antibiotics, Movistar has faith the Colombian sensation can win the maglia rosa.
“Until next Saturday at Monte Zoncolan, we will keep dreaming. Everything is still to come. So far through this Giro, it was all about ‘not losing,’” Arrieta said. “In Ireland, with the rain, and the crashes, we’ve ceded more time than we wanted, and we’ve had some setbacks, but all is not lost. We still have not had a climb longer than 20 minutes. The climbs that are longer are still to come.”
Giro is different
Quintana started Friday’s transition stage sixth overall at 3:29 back. If this were the Tour de France, Arrieta agrees that the time difference would be all but impossible to recoup. But this is the Giro, and with a terrible week of climbing looming in northern Italy, anything is possible.
“In a Tour de France, these time differences would prove decisive, and it would be practically impossible to come back,” Arrieta said. “The mountains of the Giro provide terrain to attack. It’s not over yet.”
After barnstorming through last year’s Tour, the Colombian came to this Giro to win, but things have not gone well since the start in Belfast. Movistar struggled through a wet course in the opening day team time trial, then Quintana crashed hard in stage 6, leaving him battered and bruised.
Even worse, he was zapped by a minor chest infection, prompting Movistar team doctors to put him quietly on antibiotics over the past five days.
Quintana clearly struggled through Thursday’s 42km individual time trial, crossing the line hacking and coughing, stopping the clock in 13th at 2:41 behind stage-winner and new leader Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
“I wasn’t as good as I hoped. I had some trouble with my breathing, not with my legs,” Quintana told reporters at the line Thursday. “I hope I can be at my best in the coming days. The idea is still to fight to win this Giro.”
Antibiotics and attacks
Movistar team doctor Eduardo González told VeloNews that Quintana also had a slight fever, and was only at “80 percent” of full strength for Thursday’s TT.
“He’s better now. It affected him, and was trying to hide in the bunch the past few days,” González said, confirming that Quintana’s antibiotic treatment has ended. “We hope he gets through [Friday] okay, and can recover for this weekend’s climbs.”
The peloton always has its ears pricked up to look for weakness in rivals, so it was no wonder that Movistar wanted to keep Quintana’s antibiotics treatment under wraps.
On Thursday, Tinkoff-Saxo manager Bjarne Riis said it would be a mistake to think Quintana is no longer a threat.
“He has lost some time, but he attacks in the mountains like few others,” Riis said. “If he’s not doing well, it would be smart for the others to try to eliminate him this weekend, because if you give him time to fully recover, he will be a danger.”
Movistar remains quietly confident their 24-year-old can bounce back and become a decisive factor in the final week.
“We are hoping that the worst is behind him, and that he will be in top condition for the mountains,” Arrieta said. “Above all, it’s terrain that favors him. With Nairo, anything can happen in the mountains.”