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Photo: James Startt

Rejuvenated Quintana aiming high for Tour de France

Quintana showing signs of former glories and planning to fight for the podium at the Tour in summer.

Nairo Quintana is back with a bang. After a fallow few years with Team Movistar, the Colombian is back to his best with his new Arkea-Samsic team – and they are hoping his early-season form carries through to the Tour de France this summer.

“Of course, we want to win the Tour,” said Yvon Ledanois, sport director of Arkea-Samsic, Sunday.

Quintana has so far won the overall at Tour de la Provence and Tour des Alpes Maritimes, and put out an unstoppable attack to win the final stage of Paris-Nice this weekend. Had he not been caught up in a crash on stage 2, he would have been a bona fide challenger for the overall.

And now, with spring schedules and race dates in doubt following the rapid spread of coronavirus through Europe, Quintana’s long-view turns to the Tour de France.

“Now, we focus on the Tour,” Ledanois told Le Telegramme. “Nairo will recover from Paris-Nice and we will see for the future depending on the situation [regards coronavirus].”

The Tour has proven a tough nut to crack for Quintana. The 30-year-old has placed on the podium three times, but always been denied the top step by Chris Froome and Team Sky. Having already won the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, the Tour proves to be the final gem missing from Quintana’s grand tour crown.

“He won the Giro and the Vuelta, why not the Tour,” said Philippe Mauduit, DS of Groupama-FDJ. “It’s been a long time, at least four seasons, since we’ve seen him so strong.”

Could 2020 be Quintana’s year, after a few fallow seasons with Movistar? There’s no doubt that the Colombian has rewound the clocks to the prodigious spell in the middle of last decade that saw him consistently taking the fight to a dominant Team Sky. His Arkea-Samsic team is expecting him to at least be in the podium fight come July.

“Nairo has said for many years that he wants to win the Tour de France,” Ledanois had said in January. “It may not be this year, but I expect him to play the winner in Paris-Nice, make a good ranking at the Dauphiné and play it all in the Tour de France, play the podium. ”

Despite being renowned for his poker face, Quintana managed to crack a rare smile on the podium after his win in France on Saturday. He knows that Nairo of old is back. Expect to see his red Arkea-Samsic jersey jostling with the reds of Ineos this summer.

Quintana’s powerful win at Paris-Nice on Saturday even teased out a smile from the straight-faced Colombian. Photo: James Startt