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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta: Quintana seeks revenge, Chaves could play spoiler

The 2016 Vuelta a España kicks off Saturday in Ourense with a strong field of GC contenders.

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SALAMANCA, Spain (VN) — Colombian Nairo Quintana Movistar, who lacked his usual spark in the Tour de France, is out for revenge in the Vuelta a España over the next three weeks.

Quintana has twice placed second overall behind Sky’s Chris Froome and was tipped to win by some in 2016, but he had to fight to simply take third. He and his Spanish Movistar team — which faces Tour rivals like Froome and those who skipped the Tour like Esteban Chaves of Orica – BikeExchange — now hope to finish the season on a high.

The race starts Saturday with a 27.8-kilometer team time trial in Ourense.

“The goal is the podium, and winning the Vuelta would be great,” Quintana said. “The podium would be a good reward for all the work that has been done. And if nothing, I’d have the podium in the Tour and in the Vuelta in the same year.”

Froome raced the RideLondon Classic and the road race and time trial in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics since winning the Tour. Quintana went home, rested, and kept quiet.

There is no reason to think the Movistar rider could not win after an early season that included overall victories at the Volta a Catalunya, the Tour de Romandie, and the Route du Sud.

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“I’ve been quiet after the Tour at home and trained at altitude. I returned with a big goal, this Vuelta, and hopefully, everything goes well. We have done many races this year and the Tour was very hard. I am in good condition, but will wait to see what happens in the coming days,” Quintana said.

“I do not know exactly how I feel. I did not compete after the Tour and fatigue is already noticeable now in the end of the season. Yes, I have rested well. If I have the legs, yes [I’ll attack]; if they are not there, I’ll mark the wheels.”

Either way, the Colombians could be cheering with the freckled, 26-year-old Chaves also on the start line. Chaves led the Giro d’Italia in May and held on to second overall when Vincenzo Nibali of Astana rocked the race on the final mountain day.

Perhaps Chaves is more dangerous than most. Unlike Froome, Quintana, and Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador, Chaves skipped the Tour to target the Vuelta.

“We are very happy, peaceful, and we have a very good team to face the race,” Chaves said. “And we are confident that we have done things right.

“[The Giro result] gives the team a bit more calmness, less pressure, and uncertainty. We know that this team can ride three weeks at a very good level.”

Chaves admitted he was sick for three weeks following the Giro, but recovered well. He raced the Olympics and returned to Spain, where last year he won his first grand tour stage. He rode clear of Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) to win the Caminito del Rey summit finish, won again in Sierra de Cazorla, held the leader’s jersey for six days, and finished fifth overall.

He added, “If I repeat what I did last year, that would be fantastic.”