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CARCASSONNE (VN) – Nairo Quintana is looking toward the Pyrénées with a glint in his eye.
The Colombian climber captain is locked into a scuffle for the Tour de France top-five and planning on a push for the podium when the race hits the Pyrénées next week.
“We want him to podium in the tour. We’ve got three, three stages in the Pyrénées to come, and it’s within his reach,” Arkea-Samsic rouleur Connor Swift told VeloNews. “We’re fully motivated for that. We see he’s got good legs, and there are some hard stages to come.”
Quintana soared to second on the all-action stage to the Granon in what was his best Tour result since a stage victory in 2019.
With less than two minutes to gain back to hit the top-three, Arkéa-Samsic is counting on Quintana’s big third-week engine to come good and deliver the team a marquee result.
Three southwestern mountain stages starting Tuesday will put Quintana back on terrain that delivered Tour glories in the past and are pivotal in his Paris podium push.
“We are more than a small handful of riders very close to the podium, I hope to be able to complete it,” Quintana said Sunday. “To get there are three big mountain stages that will be looming in the coming days in the Pyrénées. They can decide on the general classification before the last time trial. In any case, these are beautiful stages, and that I know very well.”
At 32 years old and with Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia trophies on his mantelpiece, Quintana is one of a clutch of grizzled GC guys going up against a gaggle of Gen-Z upstarts in this year’s Tour.
The 36-year-old Geraint Thomas is riding high in third and in Quintana’s podium scopes, while fellow thirty-something Louis Meintjes roared back to GC contention on stage 14 to Mende.
“I don’t think Nairo’s far off guys like Pogačar and Vingegaard,” Swift said. “Yesterday [stage 14 to Mende] he came in with ‘G’ [Thomas] and that group, and ahead of Bardet. I think he’s, he’s progressing into the race and especially with his performance when he got the second in the Alps.”
Experience in the attrition
Quintana has more grand tours in his legs than Jonas Vingegaard or Tadej Pogačar could count with both hands. Seventeen three-weekers put Quintana on the same number of grand tour starts as Thomas and mark him as a padron of the GC pack.
Arkéa-Samsic is mining deep into Quintana’s experience and understated brand of inspiration in its quest for the squad’s best-ever grand tour result.
After losing top climber Warren Barguil to COVID, Quintana’s calm confidence comes loud on the Arkéa team bus.
“Nairo’s got the experience and he shares that,” Swift said. “Before we started this tour, he says things like how if you gain an extra hour sleep every day, that it accumulates throughout the whole race, and you’ve gained almost a day’s worth of sleep. He says small things like that, they make you pay attention.”
Quintana’s quiet brand of “marginal gains” could count as the attrition of an extra hard and hot edition of the Tour sinks deep this week.
“He’s got that experience now and you can see he uses it. He really monitors his recovery really well, he’s really focussed on positioning in the bunch to save energy, all those extra things make the difference,” Swift said.
Quintana was greeted by a gaggle of cheering Colombian fans when he rolled to the team bus after stage 15 on Sunday.
“Nairoman” and Arkéa-Samsic will be wanting to give them something extra to shout for when the Pyrénées arrive Tuesday.