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Vuelta a Espana

Nairo Quintana hoping to ‘do a Geraint Thomas’ with Vuelta a España podium bid

Quintana hails Thomas' ride to the podium in the Tour de France as example of how cycling's elder statesmen can stand up to the 'youth boom.'

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The 37-year-old Geraint Thomas hit a Tour de France podium topped by twentysomethings, and now Nairo Quintana wants to do it for the old dudes at the Vuelta a España.

At 32 years of age, Quintana is the elder statesman of a Vuelta GC start list filled with Gen-Z stars like Remco Evenepoel, João Almeida, and Sergio Higuita.

But that’s not going to hold back a grand tour veteran that won the red jersey when some of his rivals were still in school uniform.

“There is very good participation with very important teams and quite serious leaders. I think Arkéa-Samsic can have a good general classification and I want to look for the podium,” Quintana told MARCA this weekend.

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Quintana scored his best Tour de France finish in six years when he landed sixth overall in Paris last month.

Four of the five spots above Arkéa-Samsic’s captain were occupied by riders aged 26 or younger. But who came third in France? None other than grizzled Welsh warhorse “G” Thomas.

Like the Ineos Grenadiers captain, Quintana is one of a small clutch of riders still bracing back against the “youth boom” while other elders ride toward retirement.

“It is normal for a decline to come at any time in life. But we have also seen this year that Geraint Thomas reached the podium of the Tour at 37 years old, and other older riders continue to make history, like Alejandro Valverde,” Quintana said.

Thomas talked of how he pumped his best power numbers at this year’s Tour de France. Quintana’s Arkéa teammates hailed the Colombian’s “no stone unturned” approach to performance as scrapped against Tour rivals far his junior.

“I think that this slowdown depends on the care one has with one’s body. But I think the career of these young stars will be much shorter,” Quintana said. “For now, I feel good and in a position to continue enjoying the team and the race in the moment that we are in.”

Still life in the old dogs

Quintana got a front seat for the Pogačar-Vingegaard show at the Tour this summer.

Quintana rode tantalizingly close to the podium at this year’s Tour de France.

The Colombian captain led the chase behind a rampaging Jonas Vingegaaard on the Col du Granon and clawed his way through the classification during the back-half of the Tour.

Two stages sitting fourth overall saw Quintana teetering on what would have been a huge result for his French team before the late rise of his rivals left him sixth.

Arkéa-Samsic is aiming for the podium again in Spain, and this time, it doesn’t have to devote riders to a harrowing first week of crosswinds and cobblestones.

“After the Tour de France I have been able to recover my body and I am very calm,” Quintana said.

“Now we have a team with more climbers – more than in the Tour, where we opted for the riders for the first week. That gives me the peace of mind of knowing that in the mountains I can be better accompanied. I’m sure we can be fine.”

With Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar, and Egan Bernal all non-starters for the Vuelta a España, the Spanish race starts with a wide-open field flooded with podium contenders.

Quintana got a first-hand view of Pogačar and Vingegaard tearing into each other through France, and saw the Slovenian in all of his last four grand tours.

“I think Pogačar is a bit stronger than Vingegaard. It is clear that Vingegaard has a great and very powerful team that helps complement him as a cyclist,” Quintana said. “The two are very even and I think we are going to see good wars from here on out in the following Tours de France.”

The absence of the Tour’s terrible twosome leaves teams that were picking for scraps in France sniffing victory in this summer’s Spanish race.

“We are taking advantage of the opportunities that arise behind Vingegard and Pogačar,” Quintana said. “As long as we have the legs, we will continue trying to be there with them.”