UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Nairo Quintana (Movistar) shrugged off suggestions that he’s dodging anti-doping controls when he returns home to Colombia for weeks at a time during the racing season.
Defending Tour de France Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) caused ripples this week, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, with comments that seemed to be mistranslated or misunderstood. Nibali said “no one’s seen” Quintana, a comment that the Italian insisted was more about Quintana’s form than any suggestion that the Colombian was somehow avoiding anti-doping controls by spending weeks at a time in South America. That hasn’t stopped the insinuation from spreading.
“I think that’s more of a misunderstanding,” Quintana said of Nibali’s comments. “I always go home to Colombia to prepare for races, like I always have, to be near my family. This year is the same as any other year.”
In 2015, Quintana raced in Europe from March, starting with Tirreno-Adriatico, through early May, at the Tour de Romandie, before heading home to the Colombian Andes, staying at an altitude of 8,500 feet. He returned to Europe last week to race the Route du Sud, where he was second to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Nibali, too, clarified the comments during his press conference Friday, saying his words were taken the wrong way.
“All I said is that, ‘We don’t know where Quintana is,’ because we have not seen him since Romandie,” Nibali said. “It wasn’t a controversy, just a way of saying we haven’t seen him since May. I’m sorry if it was taken the wrong way.”
Last year, Chris Froome (Sky) raised a stink when he suggested that GC favorites training atop the Teide volcano were not being tested during important pre-racing windows ahead of the 2014 Tour. This year, the favorites confirmed they were submitted to controls at the towering volcano on Spain’s Tenerife island.
Tenerife is a favorite for riders such as Froome, Contador, and Nibali, who are searching for mild weather and high-altitude training terrain in the weeks and months ahead of the Tour. The hotel where riders sleep is at about 7,700 feet on the slopes of the volcano.
Quintana has the advantage of living in a village above Cómbita, high in the Colombian Andes. He’s regularly returned home to Colombia since turning pro in 2012. Unlike many pros who settle into Europe, Quintana said he simply likes to go home to train.
“Everyone has their own way of preferring to train and prepare,” Quintana said. “I like to go home, be close to my family, and train on the roads that I know. Based on my racing schedule, I always try to return home when I can.”
Quintana also confirmed that he undergoes anti-doping controls when he returns to Colombia.
“I have had five controls this year in Colombia, and others when I am at the competition. Wherever I go, there are always controls,” Quintana said. “It’s unfair to say that in Colombia there are not controls. They control us all year long, from January to December.”
When asked if he has a “secret weapon” ready at his disposal to take on the Tour de France, Quintana tipped his hat toward his Movistar teammates.
“If I have any secret weapon during this Tour, it’s my team,” he said. “I know they are backing me; they will support me through the stages, and it’s thanks to them that I can aspire for the maximum in this Tour.”