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Some say Paris is the most romantic city in the world, and while the Tour de France is yet to reach the nation’s capital, an unlikely bromance is blossoming at Arkéa-Samsic.
Grand tour veteran Nairo Quintana and British Tour de France rookie Connor Swift tapped into the next base of their unusual relationship Friday after the young Brit played an instrumental role in protecting his diminutive leader through a chaotic stage of crosswinds.
With Swift unable to speak Spanish and Quintana unable to speak English, the pair has bonded through the grippy French winter races of Tour de la Provence and Paris-Nice, communicating in the mid-race mayhem via flicks of the elbow, nods of the head and one-worded grunts.
The pair’s love without language was evident in their shared delight after the seventh stage of the Tour Friday, shortly after Quintana had rolled home in the lead group while a handful of key GC rivals including Tadej Pogačar and Mikel Landa lost 1:21 in a chaotic stage of crosswind racing.
Swift, 24, only stepped up to Arkéa-Samsic in the middle of last year, and since then the former British national champ and cousin of Ineos Grenadiers rider Ben Swift has made himself a home at the French team as Quintana’s go-to support guy for the grittiest, windiest of stages. He earned himself a start at his debut Tour – and first-ever three-week race – off the back of his invaluable rouleur role.
“This year [Swift] added a new dimension to his talent by protecting his leader Nairo Quintana, among others, on the flat stages of winds of Paris-Nice, but also the sprint finishes by being part of Nacer Bouhanni’s lead out train, which proves the extent of the talent of this young rider,” team manager Emmanuel Hubert said in July.
Quintana has stealthily risen to sixth overall in the classification, and now sits with a bunch of seven riders that are just 13 seconds back on race leader Adam Yates. With the race hitting the Pyrénées this weekend, the Colombian heads toward his favored high mountains, and it’s all to play for.
“This evening, we are on the eve of the first stage in the Pyrénées. Nairo occupies sixth place in the general classification, and the mountains will allow climbers to express themselves,” Hubert said Friday. “I would like to salute the behaviour of our two leaders, Nairo and Warren [Barguil]. They finished ahead on this stage during which many riders found themselves trapped.”
Presumably it was a table for two as Swift and Quintana celebrated another fruitful day in the budding relationship.