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Nairo Quintana will skip Colombia Tour 2.1 to race in France

Nairo Quintana will follow his French Arkea-Samsic's team wishes in early season and race Paris-Nice and the Ardennes Classics, rather than the Colombia Tour.

Nairo Quintana‘s big French adventure begins soon enough, and that means he won’t be racing in February’s Colombia Tour 2.1.

Though he will race in the Colombian national championships, Arkéa-Samsic confirmed Wednesday that Quintana will not line up for the popular Colombia Tour (February 11-16) where he’s raced the past two editions.

Instead, in what’s perhaps a tilt toward his new French sponsors, he will make his European debut at the Tour de la Provence on February 13. That decision will disappoint hometown fans, especially on a mountainous 2020 route for the Colombia tour that traces through Quintana’s home region high in the Colombian Andes.

Officials sketched out the first part of Quintana’s racing season, with Paris-Nice and the Ardennes classics at the center of his calendar.

“Paris-Nice will be my first major objective,” Quintana said Wednesday. “I will race the Tour de la Provence with Warren, which will be ideal to get everyone working together. It’s a big challenge ahead of us.”

With his high-profile move to French outfit Arkéa-Samsic, the 29-year-old Colombian got to know his new teammates at a training camp this week in western France. Quintana was joined by his brother, Dayer, and Winner Anacona, both new arrivals as well. As the team will remain at the Professional Continental level for 2020, it is still waiting to hear confirmation that it will race the Tour de France. With the arrival of Quintana, a perennial favorite who’s been three times on the Tour podium, a Tour invite seems almost assured.

Quintana will also race Haut-Var on February 20, and Paris-Nice before the Volta a Catalunya. His new program will steer him away from such races as the Tour of the Basque Country or the Tour de Romandie, and instead he will take on Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The team has sketched out early season 2020 goals for its star lineup that also includes Nacer Bouhanni, who’s hoping for a revival after a few hard seasons with Cofidis, and Warren Barguil.

Barguil downplayed any sort of rivalry with Quintana, and said the pair will be stronger if they work together. Their calendar will overlap a few times going into the Ardennes classics, including at the Tour de la Provence, Paris-Nice and Catalunya.

“I will race a lot with Nairo and the pressure will be divided between us,” Barguil said. “I think it’s good for him and for me. I can’t wait to race in the first races next season alongside Nairo.”

Bouhanni also expressed confidence a change of jersey following a few tumultuous seasons with Cofidis will do him so good.

The French sprinter will race at the new Saudi Tour in February as well as the Tour of Oman ahead of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo.

“We see everyone working in the same direction, and that creates a climate of confidence, and that’s what I needed,” he said. “I am now turning towards 2020, the goal is to get up quickly, no matter the race.”

On the women’s side, the team confirmed its 11th and final rider for the 2020 season. German rider Charlotte Becker (FDJ-NouvelleAquitaine-Futuroscope) will be racing under the Arkea Pro Cycling Team next season.