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That honor went to compatriot Egan Bernal in 2019, but Quintana — a three-time Tour podium finisher — still harbors ambitions of another shining moment in Paris.
Quintana, who will be 32 in February, confirmed the Tour will be the center of his ambitions in 2022.
“For me, the Tour is always the race of the year,” Quintana told EFE in Paris. “All of my preparation will be focused on the Tour. We’ll have to talk to the directors and riders, and we’ll study the route, and then we’ll make some decisions about how we will take on the Tour.”
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Quintana attended last week’s official route presentation in Paris after coming off a solid, but less than spectacular 2021 season, at least by his standards. He won the Vuelta a Asturias in Spain, but fell short of a stage win and was far from the podium — in 28th — at the Tour.
Knee surgeries last winter seem to have put some nagging health issues into the rearview mirror, and he’s going into 2022 — and his final year of his contract at Arkéa-Samsic — intent on reconfirming that he is a force to reckon with in the Tour as a new generation of stars led by Tadej Pogačar take over at the top.
Quintana finished off 2021 with a busy September and October marked by a string of solid results, including 11th at Il Lombardia.
“There will still be Nairo for a while,” he told EFE. “We are good, improving every day. For the first time in a while I finished off a season in good physical shape, and now I’m motivated to work for the coming year.”
Salirse de nuestra zona siempre cuesta… pero es muy valioso para mí, que cada uno de ustedes pueda conocer mi lado más humano, que no sólo se conozca el ciclista, sino al ser…
— NairoQuinCo (@NairoQuinCo) October 10, 2021
Quintana said he liked what he saw about the 2022 Tour route, citing the risk of echelons and the pavé in the first week will be important hurdles to overcome. If he gets through unscathed, he said he likes what lies await in the mountains.
“I am a GC rider. Every year I come to the Tour with these ambitions, except last year, when physical problems wiped them out,” he said. “The route is good for us. It’s important to arrive in top condition to be able to take it on.”
Whether a healthy and motivated Quintana can take on the likes of Pogačar and Primož Roglič remains to be seen.