CULOZ, France (AFP) — Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) said his stage 15 victory at the Tour de France showed the world that Movistar’s Nairo Quintana is not the only talented Colombian racing bikes right now.
The 27-year-old Pantano claimed the biggest victory of his career in Sunday’s mountainous 160-kilometer stage from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz.
And during a Tour in which Quintana has seemed largely out of sorts, currently sitting in fourth and 2:59 behind leader Chris Froome, Pantano’s success demonstrated Colombian cycling is in a healthy place regardless of its biggest star’s Tour campaign.
“Quintana is not the only Colombian climber in the peloton, there are several of us,” said Pantano. “I’ve always been good — I was third at the Tour de l’Avenir that Quintana won.”
The Tour de l’Avenir (Tour of the Future) is the sport’s preeminent stage race for riders under the age of 23.
Pantano was third in 2010, when Quintana won, and since then two other Colombians have also won the race: Esteban Chaves in 2011 and Miguel Ángel López in 2014.
Pantano said he’s come on strong since turning professional in 2015.
“Last year I was lucky to get on the WorldTour and that changed my life.
“I found out what it was like being a professional. Last year was about discovering the WorldTour and this year I’ve progressed enough to be able to win today.”
This season has been a good one for Pantano, who won a stage at the Tour de Suisse last month — his first career WorldTour win — and finished fourth overall. He was also eighth at the Tour of the Algarve which was won by Sky’s Geraint Thomas.
Still, while he may be keen to make a name for himself, like most Colombians Pantano is hoping Quintana will succeed Froome as Tour champion this year.
“Froome’s showed he’s very strong but the Tour finishes in Paris,” he said. “Anyone can have a bad day on any day and lose a lot of time.
“Froome’s a great rider, he’s won two Tours but Quintana still has his chances.”