FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Nairo Quintana agrees that winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year will be complicated, but racing in both motivates him more than if he just focused on one grand tour.
The Movistar rider is the first to attempt the double since Alberto Contador in 2015. The last to win both races in one season was Marco Pantani in 1998.
“It’s different for me than the last years, that’s why I’m doing it,” Quintana said. “Plus I have the dream of winning it.
“I still want to win the Tour, which gave me so much fame so far. But this is the 100th Giro d’Italia. It’s important, and that pulls me in. That’s my motivation.”
Quintana debuted in the Tour de France in 2013 and became Froome’s most feared rival. He placed second overall that year and won a stage, along with the mountains and best young rider classifications.
In 2014, then 24, he raced the Giro d’Italia for the first time and won. He returned to the Tour in 2015 to place second again and in 2016, after suffering, he climbed his way to third. He took revenge in the Vuelta a España, where he toppled Froome in the final week.
The experience has enabled him and Movistar’s staff to better estimate what Quintana is capable of in the season.
“I’m more mature now. In the three-week races, I’m good. I do well in the second race of the year, I’m able to have a good level and recuperate better,” Quintana continued.
“Maybe it won’t work, but I’m going to attempt it and there’s a chance I can achieve it, to win both grand tours.
“[My fitness] is different this time around. I’ve had different training ahead of this season. In the past it was just one big race, now it’s two [Vuelta a Valenciana, which he won, and the Abu Dhabi Tour — ed]. I’m focusing to be ready on two grand tours, and my team is too, to be around me to make sure that I can pull it off.”
Quintana will not only need to make sure he manages an A list of stars in the Giro – from Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida to Orica-Scott’s Adam and Simon Yates – he will need to have something left to take on Sky’s Chris Froome in the Tour de France.
Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli, who directed Pantani in 1998, said in modern cycling it has become harder to win the double, but that Quintana has the traits to accomplish it.
“In both cases, the rivals will be tough,” explained Quintana. “In the Giro, there are going to be many rivals, which is good for the 100th edition. It’ll be complicated. There will be stronger climbers in the Giro. In the Tour, I’ll face Froome but also his team. They are held in high regard for how they all arrive and ride strongly around him. I’ll have a strong team too, though. We can also expect some surprises from other riders.
“The conclusion we came to last year, and throughout the last years, is that I’m stronger in the second grand tour of the season. I think that this will allow us to confront this challenge. I’m hoping so.”