Nairo Quintana said it loud and clear: I will be the leader at the 2018 Tour de France.
The Movistar captain, in Paris on Tuesday for the unveiling of the 2018 Tour course, confirmed he will be the captain of Movistar’s Tour ship next year.
“I will be the team leader next year for the Tour squad. It’s always been like that,” Quintana told the Spanish wire service EFE. “It’s worked out with the directors, and they will support me with the best team possible.”
Normally, that wouldn’t even be a question for the three-time Tour podium finisher. The arrival of Spanish star Mikel Landa offers a new level of intrigue inside the Movistar bus. Landa just missed the Tour podium by one second this year, while Quintana struggled to 12th, the first time in his career that he wasn’t on the Tour podium.
Some have suggested that Landa will be angling for a shot at Tour leadership, but Quintana insisted that is not the case.
“I don’t even know if Landa will race [the Tour],” Quintana told journalists. “We lived through similar situations like this with Alejandro [Valverde], and together we’ll do what’s right for Movistar.”
Those questions might be getting ahead of themselves. Landa has yet to outline his season goals for 2018, and Movistar will huddle with staff and riders in December to map out the coming season. Valverde, who is recovering from a devastating injury at this year’s Tour, already confirmed he will not be racing the Tour next year.
All that points to Quintana, three times a Tour podium man in four starts, remaining leader of the powerful Movistar squad.
On Tuesday, Quintana said he liked what he saw in the unconventional 2018 Tour route that’s packed with surprises.
“I think the route favors me pretty well because we’ll face a lot of mountains,” Quintana said. “And there’s not too many kilometers of time trialing, so I think I should be able to do pretty well.”
In July, Quintana wasn’t at his typical level, and said he will make adjustments coming into 2018. That means he won’t be racing the Giro d’Italia again.
“Maybe the word ‘error’ isn’t the right one, because you always learn,” he said of his 2017 Giro-Tour double attempt. “I will modify my calendar. I won’t race as many races, and I won’t try to win all the ones I go to. I’d like to arrive as fresh as possible in July, which will be my main objective of the year.”
Some have whispered that Quintana might already be past his prime. His attacks don’t seem as lethal as they once were, and other rivals, such as Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin, are moving up.
“At 28, I think my best is yet to come,” he said. “I think I am coming into the best years of my career. I am more mature, more experienced. Of course, I believe I can win the Tour. That’s what we’re working for.”
Quintana’s confidence remains firmly intact. He still dreams of being the first Colombian to win the Tour de France. Four-time winner Chris Froome (Sky) remains his nemesis.
“Froome is beatable,” Quintana said. “If he wasn’t, I’d have to figure out something else to do.”