Quintana to debut 2018 on home roads

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will start his 2018 campaign in his home country of Colombia and the fans are sure to be out in droves.

What’s going to be the biggest cycling party in 2018? Forget the Kapelmuur. The Champs-Élysées? A tea-party. If you want a real fiesta, pack your bags for Colombia in February.

Moivstar confirmed Friday that Nairo Quintana will debut his 2018 campaign at a new, six-day race called the “Colombia Oro y Paz” (Gold and Peace) from February 6-11.

“It’s going to be a big event, because Nairo doesn’t race in Colombia very often,” said Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué. “I would suggest that you don’t miss it.”

Quintana is a superstar in Colombia, and his status as a national hero eclipses his stature as a cycling star. Yet he’s rarely raced on home roads since becoming a pro in 2012.

In fact, the last time he raced in Colombia was during the 2015 and 2016 national championships. In what may be a preview what be in store, fans lined the route 10-deep during those races.

“It excites me to be able to race at home,” Quintana said during a media day to cap Movistar’s fall meetings. “I rarely get to race there, and for sure I will debut my season there.”

The race will be a 2.1 UCI-ranked event, meaning that WorldTour teams can line up alongside teams from the UCI America Tour. Movistar said its other Colombians will also attend, including Dayer Quintana, Winner Anacona and Carlos Betancur.

For Quintana, Colombia will be the first step about forgetting 2017, and rediscovering his footing at the Tour.

For 2018, the Tour de France will be back at the center of his plans. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Quintana said he might try the Giro-Tour double again sometime in the future. For next year, it’s about reviving his “sueño amarillo,” his yellow jersey dream.

“To win the Tour remains my dream,” Quintana said. “I’ve won the Giro, the Vuelta, and a lot of other stage races and one-day races. Winning the Tour is what drives me and motivates me.”

Despite his impressive Tour track record, some view Quintana’s 12th in 2017 as a turning point in his trajectory. With a new generation of riders reaching maturity, some even think that Quintana, twice second and once third, might have already peaked.

As Unzué pointed out, Quintana’s Tour disappointment should be seen through the context of what came before.

“Nairo raced four straight grand tours in little more than 12 months,” Unzué said. “He was third in the 2016 [Tour], then won the Vuelta, finished second in the [2017] Giro, and then simply ran out of gas in the Tour. Four grand tours in a row was too much.”

For next year, Quintana said he will race with “less intensity” in the early season contests, and aim to arrive as “fresh as possible” to the Tour next summer.

“I am more motivated than ever to get back to my level at the Tour,” Quintana said. “Every year except 2012, I’ve been on a grand tour podium, sometimes even two in the same season. I did it again this year [second in the Giro], but because it wasn’t in the Tour, it seems to some like a disappointment.”

And the arrival of Mikel Landa? Despite some barbs thrown in the media over the past few weeks, Quintana said he welcomed the arrival of the emerging Spanish star.

“[The first contact] has been very good,” Quintana said. “We never had any problems before when we were rivals, now even less. We have a lot of leaders in Movistar, and each one has their spot. Before he was a rival, and now he is a teammate.”