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Nairo Quintana vs. Miguel Ángel López highlights Mont Ventoux Challenge

Nairo Quintana and Miguel Ángel López will both use the Mont Ventoux Challenge as a build-in race for the Tour de France.

Two giants of Colombian cycling will go head-to-head on the Giant of Provence on Thursday.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) are the proverbial heavyweights lining up for France’s Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, which returns for its second edition amid a packed week of pro racing.

The mountainous one-day race packs two ascents of Mont Ventoux into its 179-kilometer route, with the final 20 kilometers encompassing the full ascent of the mountain. The tough race should shed light on which riders are approaching top climbing form in the lead up to the Tour de France.

“I feel good as I approach the Dénivelé Challenge Mont Ventoux tomorrow, and the Tour de l’Ain, which I will be competing in afterwards,” Quintana said in a statement. “These will be my two race races since the end of the season on the evening of the Colmiane stage in Paris-Nice.”

The race made its debut in June 2019 with a hilly route that finished atop Mont Ventoux. For 2020 organizers have packed more punch and included an early partial ascent of the Ventoux climb to Chateau Reyard, which falls just past the race’s midpoint. Riders will descend from Ventoux before circling around the southern edge of the mountain and then ascending it to the finish line.

The Ventoux race’s lineup includes a smattering of GC riders, all of whom are preparing for the Tour. Defending champion Jesus Herrada will lead Team Cofidis alongside budding French GC star Guillaume Martin. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) comes in after finishing sixth overall at the recent La Route d’Occitanie.

Also on the start list are Fabio Aru and Joe Dombrowski (UAE-Team Emirates), Tony Gallopin and Pierre Latour (Ag2R-La Mondiale).

All eyes will be on Quintana and López, both of whom are the GC hopes for their respective teams at the Tour de France. López has the climbing chops and explosive speed to drop the top riders in a kick to the line. And Quintana showed early in 2020 that he is perhaps the best pure climber in the peloton.

Whether or not Quintana can capture his form from February and March is the biggest question heading into the race. Quintana said he recently completed a training block in the nearby Alps, and that his legs are on form.

“A few days ago, I [rode] a few stages of the Tour in the Alps, including the unique Loze pass,” he said. “This is a very, very hard climb. It’s exactly the same for the Grand Colombier, which we will climb on the next Tour de l’Ain.”