UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — Climbing specialist Nairo Quintana (Movistar) said 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) is behind his main rivals in the race for this year’s yellow jersey.
Most observers have been talking about the ‘Fantastic four‘ with reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) completing the quartet.
And despite Froome winning the Tour tune-up Critérium du Dauphiné last month and also triumphing at the Vuelta a Andalucia in February, Quintana does not consider him to be at the same level as Nibali and Contador.
“I think [Nibali] and Contador are the favourites. In any case, they’re my most dangerous rivals,” said Quintana on Friday, on the eve of the Grand Départ.
“Alberto is aiming for the Giro-Tour double, and I think he can do it. As for Chris Froome, he’s a little bit behind, but I’m not ruling him out.
“Of course I’m riding to win, I’ve prepared well as always.
“I like the course; there are some tough stages, but I’ve trained hard to get over them. It should be a great Tour de France.” With just one individual time trial — Saturday’s opening stage — at just 13.8km and six summit finishes, many people believe this year’s course is tailor-made for Quintana to succeed.
The 25-year-old Colombian is the smallest and slightest of the four main contenders and the weakest in races against the clock, but considered by many to be the best climber.
But he’s not counting his chickens just yet. “Yes, I’m nervous. I’m the leader in a very strong team which expects a lot from me,” he added.
“If everything goes well, we’ll ride for the yellow jersey. That’s how I feel. I’m determined to win.
“They [his Movistar team] have faith in me, and the proof is that a rider of the caliber of [Alejandro] Valverde is aiming to help me win the Tour de France.”
Two years ago they were joint leaders when debutant Quintana finished second overall to Froome, and Valverde could manage only eighth, before taking a career-high fourth place last year when Quintana missed the Tour to ride the Giro instead, which he won.