SAN JUAN, Argentina (VN) — Colombian Nairo Quintana believes a Tour de France win remains possible, but he may be fighting for leadership within his Movistar team, not to mention his perennial nemesis, Team Sky.
Quintana won the 2014 Giro d’Italia and against Sky’s star Chris Froome, the 2016 Vuelta a España. In the Tour, however, he placed second twice in 2013 and 2015 to Froome. Since then, he has been searching for answers to win the Tour — which is his goal again for 2019.
“Lately, I have had many complications for different reasons but I know I have to keep trying. At some point it could happen, [a win] is possible,” Quintana told press at Argentina’s Vuelta a San Juan.
“To improve, you look to what may have been missing or what can be changed, but there are things that you cannot change because they are in the hands of others.”
Quintana hinted that all may not be well inside Team Movistar as he begins the final year of his current contract with the Spanish team.
Lately, he butted heads with team boss Eusebio Unzué over leadership. In the 2018 Tour, Movistar brought three captains: Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde.
The plan largely failed. Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas won the overall in Paris. Landa led the Movistar team in the final standings, seventh, and Quintana placed 10th. Quintana at least won a summit finish on stage 17.
Valverde, now world champion, will likely not race the Tour for the overall in 2019. Landa is due to lead the Giro d’Italia team and offer a back-up plan in the Tour.
“I like it that way, just with one leader. In many of the races where I’ve gone well, that’s the way it was,” Quintana continued.
“In this team, we have three leaders and one boss, and the boss decides.”
Plans are unclear for 2019 after Landa broke his collarbone in his season debut. He crashed on Thursday in the Mallorca Challenge.
“It’s a pity what happened to him [with the crash],” said Quintana. “He wanted to do things well this season after the fall he had in the Tour. He seemed fine, and he returns now with this bad luck. He’s going to be f—ked for quite a few days.”
Quintana and Movistar continue to search for a way to dismantle Team Sky and stand atop of the Tour podium in Paris. This winter, it hired sport director Max Sciandri from BMC Racing and Quintana began to work with Italian coach Michele Bartoli.
“If something characterizes me, it is that when I have a commitment or I have something to do, I do it. You’re calm when you have done your work the best you can. You’ve done what you can within your reach, but there are factors that you cannot change,” Quintana added.
“Clearly the pressure is there, in different ways. A couple of years ago it was Nairo against the Sky. It is no longer just Nairo, there are other rivals that have to attack and use their bullets.
“It’d be good if all the teams were like Sky in cycling. I think the team works well.”
Quintana began his season in Argentina’s western province at the Vuelta a San Juan. He is building toward the 2019 Tour de France. The race, this year from July 6 to 28, favors climbers with three of its five summit finishes over 2,000 meters. It includes one team time trial and one individual time trial, both 27 kilometers.
“It’s a good course for me; it has a lot of high-altitude mountains,” said Quintana. “That’s something that I like since I was born at altitude. We can prepare for these stages.”
The five-foot-five, 127-pound climber races to the Alto Colorado finish Friday in the Vuelta a San Juan. The climb in the Andes, separating this part of Argentina from Chile, reaches 2,565 meters. From here, he continues his season at the Tour Colombia, where he will face Froome on his home turf.
“We’re ready, we’re in good condition,” Quintana added. “I don’t know what condition that Froome is in right now, but I am sure we’ll make a good race.”