After finishing second in the Tour twice by the time he was 25, Quintana’s star started to fade just as Bernal streaked into the history books this week in France.
Quintana, who had put the “sueño amarillo” — the yellow jersey dream — at the center of his ambitions, was quick to congratulate his compatriot for becoming the first Latin American to win the Tour. If Quintana was upset or frustrated that Bernal beat him to the mark, he didn’t provide any hint publicly.
“We already knew he was going to be one of the great ones,” Quintana told ESPN. “Today with his team he achieved it. Everyone knows how hard it is for a Colombian to win here [in Europe]. Seeing Egan in yellow is really something of pride.”
On Twitter, Quintana posted another message congratulating Bernal, saying the Tour victory was a “dream come true for everyone who believed it was possible. [Thanks Bernal] for filling every Colombian with pride.”
Hoy nos unimos todos , en torno al triunfo de @Eganbernal, es el sueño cumplido para los que creímos que era posible. #GraciasEgan, por llenar de orgullo a cada Colombiano 🇨🇴 @sergiohenaoofic @UranRigoberto @LeTour pic.twitter.com/jg0zAW8Emf
— NairoQuinCo (@NairoQuinCo) July 28, 2019
Quintana, now 29, rode through another sub-par Tour, at least by his standards. After finishing second in 2013 and 2015, and third in 2016, Quintana has since struggled to match that early success. Stage victories, in 2018 and this year over the Col du Galibier, served as salves for GC ambitions that fell short.
“You always hope for more,” said Quintana, who finished Sunday eighth at 5:30 back, his best Tour since 2016. “We came with an objective and we didn’t achieve it, but we’ll keep trying.”
For his part, Quintana vows to keep working to win the Tour. Some have wondered if the Colombian has lost some of his spark in the high mountains to truly have a chance for the yellow jersey in the coming years.
“I don’t know one day if it will happen, but what I know is that I will keep fighting for the dream,” Quintana said. “[Bernal’s victory] is already a dream fulfilled for a nation and a region, but it remains a dream for me.”
An all-but-confirmed departure from Movistar to the French team Arkea-Samsic next season will provide a fresh start for Quintana. He is expected to bring his brother, Dayer, and compatriot Winner Anacona along with him to the French second-category team.
The move will put Quintana at the center of the team’s GC ambitions, and he will no longer have to share leadership duties, as he did with Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.
There were hints of tension within the Movistar ranks the past few seasons as Quintana sparred with others for control of the team. Critics accused Quintana of doing little to try to help his teammates after his GC ambitions fell apart. They pointed to a key stage in the Pyrénées to Foix when Quintana did not take a single pull after Landa bridged across to Quintana in a breakaway. Also, critics said Quintana rode his own race in Saturday’s final mountain stage to Val Thorens rather than try to help Landa or Valverde win the stage and pay back the favor of his stage-win over the Galibier two days earlier.
If Quintana’s days in Movistar are indeed numbered, he at least confirmed he will race the Vuelta a España in August.
Recent Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz — rumored to be joining Team Ineos in 2020 — is also expected to start. If true, it will be the final grand tour for both riders in the Movistar “blue” jersey.