Nairo Quintana (Movistar) knows that in order to become Latin America’s first yellow jersey, he needs to get past two-time winner Chris Froome (Sky).
After twice finishing second to Froome in two Tour starts, Quintana said he’s tweaked his training in order to take on the Sky captain in the decisive climbing stages in next month’s Tour de France.
“Froome’s attacks [in 2015] were very strong, and no one could follow them,” Quintana said Friday at a press conference. “We hope we can withstand the rhythm of the attacks. I’ve prepared well, and I’ve made some training to do these changes of rhythm, and wait until the heart-rate hits 200.”
Quintana remains in Colombia, skipping both the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse, and will return to Europe later this week to race the Route du Sud.
On Friday, Quintana spoke extensively about his approach to the 2016 Tour during a press conference in Colombia. After winning two races in Europe (Romandie and Catalunya) and finishing on the podium at two others (País Vasco and Tour de San Luís), the Colombian is quietly confident he can make history.
Here are highlights of what he had to say:
On targeting Tour: Of course, I’m going for the Tour. I’ve prepared well, and I want to win, and want to share this joy with all Colombians. That’s why I am asking people to share my “yellow jersey dream” (sueño amarillo) and support me. Winning the Tour has always been my dream. When I used to ride with my friends, they laughed at me when I said my dream was to win the Tour one day. And here I am, always improving, and thanks to the support I receive from Movistar, because without them, we wouldn’t be the artists in this big circus.
On experience: I am still learning a lot, and the race teaches you so many things: how to read the maps, the wind, the rain, how to adapt to every situation. You try to learn so you do not commit the same errors and lose the race.
On approach to 2016 Tour: Last year, I was coming off an injury at the 2014 Vuelta a España, and I barely had a chance to rest, and I was always thinking about the Tour. We lost the Tour last year for the stage in the crosswinds [stage 2]. This year, I had a chance to recover well, and I prepared perfectly, and the spring went better than ever before. My level is higher, and I think it’s for the maturity that I am gaining year to year. I’m similar to last year, but with more maturity and tranquility, knowing that I have a great team that is going to back me up.
On being a favorite to win: It doesn’t bother me at all. Some say Froome, others Contador. More than pressure, it’s the support and positive energy I feel from everyone. The children yell, ‘Nairoman is going to win the Tour!’ That fills me with great emotion, and every day you wake up, you work hard to fulfill the dream, not just for myself, but for all Colombians.
On racing Route du Sud (June 16-19): I’ll do because the last cycle of races ended a month ago, and it’s also a very hard race ahead of the Tour. I’ve done it a few times; I won in 2012, and last year I was second. It gives me the rhythm I need without having to push myself to the limit. It has some good mountains and the French roads are perfect for finishing off the preparation. And it also gives us more time at altitude, and that allows me to arrive at the Tour in very good condition. If I did the Dauphiné, I would have fewer days at altitude. After the Route du Sud, it’s eat, sleep and train, and wait until the start of the Tour.
On Movistar support: I think Dani Moreno will be key to help me in the final week. Valverde was at a very high level at the Giro, and he wants to focus on the Olympics, and will come to the Tour to help me completely, and he’s another card to play in the final week. It’s a shame about Malori’s crash in Argentina, and he’s still recovering. We haven’t had good luck with the falls and crashes this year, but we still have a good team.
On Tour route: I’ve seen almost all the climbs, either on bike or by car, and I like them. They’re long, including even longer than some of the climbs in the Colombia, and I think they’re good for me. I’m excited about returning to Mont Ventoux. When I escaped in 2013, I was nearly dead and couldn’t breath at the finish, because I attacked from far away. So this year, I will make a similar attack to see how my rivals respond. There are hard stages that I really like, such as Mont Ventoux, Emosson, of high mountains, and something special for me is Morzine, where I won a stage in the 2012 Dauphiné.
On time trials: The time trials will be very important for the GC. Maybe last year’s course was better for me, but I don’t mind this year’s route at all, and the only thing it has is the time trial. I think we’ve improved a lot in time trials, and later there is the climbing time trial. It’s a good course. Before, I lost a lot of time in the time trial, this year, however, I was second at the Basque Country tour, and it was because of an error that I lost the stage. I was also strong at Romandie, and I’ve improved in these things.
On Olympic Games: I know I will be in the running for the Olympics coming out of the Tour with very good form, like I’ve done before, winning the Vuelta a Burgos [in 2013 and 2014]. The Tour gives you a high level of fitness and race rhythm. I think I will be very close to the podium and medals coming from the Tour.