Giro d'Italia
Quintana came into the Giro d'Italia as the...

Quintana: Signed, sealed, and nearly delivered

Nairo Quintana has left little doubt who is strongest in this Giro d'Italia, in what has been a controversial battle for the maglia rosa

BASSANO DEL GRAPPA, Italy (VN) — Maybe he took it all personally. Maybe the nagging questions of how he nabbed the pink jersey, the questions about racing ethics. Maybe he left all of that on the road Friday, up to Cima Grappa. Maybe he wanted to leave no doubt.

“This is what the people wanted to see, everything you journalists asked me, I have taken it seriously, and today I wanted to win the Giro … I didn’t want to say it earlier, but this was my specialty,” said Nairo Quintana (Movistar) after decimating his rivals in the climbing time trial Friday. “I couldn’t let this stage go past without winning it; my family came here from Colombia to watch me.”

Over the course of an hour (1:05:37, to be precise), the Movistar captain took absolute control of this Giro and, just as importantly, shot holes in the argument that, without a controversial attack on a potentially neutralized descent of the Stelvio, he wouldn’t have won the overall come Sunday.

The time Quintana put into Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) up Cima Grappa (1:26) is roughly the same amount of time he took on the Stelvio descent, and he leads now by 3:07, meaning the Colombian would likely be firmly ahead on GC regardless of that controversial Gavia-Stelvio stage.

For Quintana, all of this is confirmation of his Tour de France performance last year, where he finished second to Chris Froome (Sky) in Paris, and also took the King of the Mountains and Best Young Rider’s competitions.

“Last year, the Tour was my chance to show the world who was Nairo Quintana. Tthis is a confirmation, before I was an unknown, now I’m confirmed as a grand-tour specialist,” he said. “The Tour is spectacular, but this race too is fabulous.”

Quintana will have yet another shot to widen his lead Saturday , when the peloton makes a trek up Monte Zoncolan, a dreaded climb at that’s 10.1 kilometers long at a 12 percent average, with a maximum pitch of 22 percent. Those behind him will have to take time back, or at least try. Aru is 3:48 down, and sits in third.

Will Quintana try for a third stage win? Maybe.

“I’ve looked at the start of the climb, the Zoncolan, and I like it a lot. It’s pretty demanding. But those mountains, I couldn’t see all of it, because when I came months ago it was covered in snow. So I could only see the first part. We’ll see how the team is tomorrow. Given what I’ve seen, it will be very good. We will control the race, and if I feel good, why not try for a stage win? Either myself, or perhaps a teammate.”

Age is nothing but a number

Quintana is 24 years old, and part of a crop of riders born in 1990 that are proving quite precarious for the peloton’s older riders.

Astana’s Fabio Aru, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) all race older than their years.

If this Giro, and the 2014 season is any indication, with three of the aforementioned riders in the top. Quintana said the younger riders still have their work cut out.

“The other riders are very strong, they have a lot of experience, older than us, we have to keep improving, and try to better them. We are the generation to take over from them,” he said. “We will certainly shine in the grand tours of the future. For now, we’re all relatively equal. I think 1990 was a pretty good year considering all these riders of different types… we are coming.”

As for Quintana, he’s already there.