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NICE, France (VN) – One of the in-form riders during the early part of the season thanks to victories at the Tour de la Provence and the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, Nairo Quintana began Paris-Nice in the same style, only to be set back by what he described as a “disappointing” performance in Wednesday’s Montluçon time trial, where he lost more than a minute in a major setback to his GC hopes.
Yet, the final weekend of the race offers the Colombian a chance to strike back, particularly in Saturday’s summit finish on the Col de Turini.
A class above his rivals on the climbs in Provence and Alpes Maritimes, Quintana came into Paris-Nice confident of his chances of overall victory.
This seemed justified when he finished in the front group on the second stage through the crosswinds to Orléans. “We managed to follow the moves and came out of it quite well,” he said the next morning.
“I’ve learned to cope with those conditions over the years. I learned a lot from a great Italian master, Daniele Bennati,” he continued. “I wasn’t with him for long, but I learned a lot about how to move in echelons and I have to thank him for that. As a consequence of that, I managed to emerge from a tricky day without any losses.”
He added that his next goal for the race was clear.
“The main objective now is the time trial, to do a good time trial. My aim will be not to lose too much time to the specialists who are also focusing on the GC. And then in the mountains we’ll see where we are and give the maximum,” he said.
Losing a 1:17 to TT winner Wout van Aert and just two seconds fewer to the Belgian’s Jumbo-Visma teammate and new race leader Primož Roglič wasn’t part of his plan. It dropped him to 17th on GC, the best part of two minutes down on the yellow jersey. He looked dejected as the media hovered, waiting to get his thoughts, and signaled with a shake of the head to Arkéa-Samsic’s press officer that he wasn’t going to talk.
“Disappointing” was how he described his performance the next morning. “It wasn’t a good time trial for me. Given the form that I’ve been in, we were hoping for something much better,” he admitted, adding that the key to his race would now be the Turini summit finish.
The runaway winner of the Tour de la Provence’s key mountain test the Montagne de Lure, a climb very similar in length, gradient, and altitude to the Turini, Quintana is convinced that his form is good and that he can bounce back, ideally by emulating his penultimate day victory in the 2020 “Race to the Sun” on the Col de la Colmiane.