Nairo Quintana is looking to the Giro d’Italia to revive his off-boil grand tour career.
The Colombian is pinning his hopes on a return to former glory at the race that he won in 2014, with a ride at the Tour de France set to follow a few months afterward.
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“My intention is clear, I like the Giro a lot, I have participated twice, in one I was first and the other second,” Quintana told El Caracol Radio this week. “I want to repeat it again, I want to return to the podium.”
Quintana is hoping the favor of the Italian roads that put him at the top of the grand tour hierarchy some five years ago will breathe life into his faltering grand tour form.
Since being beaten to the pink jersey by Tom Dumoulin in 2017, “Nairoman” has struggled to hit a high over three weeks, with fourth place at the 2019 Vuelta a España his best finish since.
Like compatriot Egan Bernal, Quintana saw his Tour de France campaign crumble beneath his cleats last summer, with crashes worsening existing knee injuries and leaving him to limp to 17th overall. Having not raced since arriving in Paris last September, Quintana, who turns 31 on Thursday, is confident of his recovery from double knee surgery and looking to press reset with a season debut at Tour des Alpes Maritimes mid-February.
“The team started this year on the right foot,” he said Tuesday. “I hope to travel to Europe next week to make the team presentation and then we will start competing. We’re doing pretty good.”
Quintana will see his best chance at a grand tour podium this year on the roads of the Giro as some 58 kilometers of time trialing at the Tour puts him well down the list of likely winners. However, Quintana’s second-tier Arkéa-Samsic team hangs at the mercy of the wildcard lottery as RCS Sport prepares to confirm its team selections at a race presentation this week.
Contrastingly, the French outfit Arkéa-Samsic is a virtual shoo-in for a wildcard ride in France, and Quintana is hoping good form and the hand of fate will see him reverse his Tour disappointment from 2020.
“We want the Tour to stop being a dream,” he said. “We are going to show up, with the intention of having a strong team, in good condition, and then we’ll see what God wants. We’re always at a good level, but unfortunately for the crashes, we’ve never had the results that we’ve needed. But the dream still lives.”
Quintana is optimistic for his re-entry to racing at the Alpes Maritimes race, starting February 19. With the nagging knee issues still close in the rear-view, the Colombian accepts that he may take time to hit his stride as he paves his way to his grand tour goals.
“It [the injury] is the breakdown of cartilage, one of the most difficult for athletes,” Quintana said. “For three months I have been working on it, but the fracture has now healed. I know that I’m not at a high level, the injury has delayed everything, but in general, we are doing well. We have worked on the bike and the feeling is good.”