PAU, France (AFP) — Nairo Quintana is banking on his strength in the mountains to claw back the time he lost to Tour de France leader Chris Froome (Sky) over the first week.
Movistar’s Colombian climber arrived at Monday’s rest day almost two minutes behind Briton Froome at ninth in the overall standings.
But the 25-year-old is widely regarded as the best climber in the world and once the mountains begin on Tuesday, he expects to start eating into Froome’s advantage.
“Froome is physically very strong, but I’m also in good form, and we’re going to try to do all we can to make up the difference,” said the Movistar team leader.
“Up until now he’s gained small victories but on short climbs that require a lot of strength, which have nothing to do with climbs that are coming.”
The first of those will be Tuesday’s hors categorie finish at La Pierre-Saint Martin — a 15.3km climb at an average gradient of 7.4 percent, which is much more to Quintana’s liking.
“It’s a fairly consistent climb, very tough, in which the temperature will play an important role, and it’s expected to be very hot,” said Quintana.
And he added, smiling: “I always enjoy the big climbs.”
Quintana lost a handful of seconds to Froome on the opening-stage individual time trial, the stage 3 finish on the Mur de Huy, and Sunday’s team time trial.
But he gave up a minute and a half on stage 2 in which crosswinds caused havoc as he was caught up behind a crash. Yet he managed to avoid losing any more time on the potentially perilous, cobbled stage 4.
He says he is happy with his current position because he expected it to be even worse ahead of the mountains. “I would have signed up for this gap [before the Tour started] because the first week wasn’t easy,” he said. “Although it’s true that the cobbles weren’t as difficult as I thought. I got over them well with the help of the team who kept me calm.”