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Nairo Quintana is raring to rev his engine again. After a hot start to the year, the Colombian is full of hope for a “great future” with his new Arkéa-Samsic team, with the Tour de France the first goal.
The 30-year-old looked back to his best at the start of the season, winning two early-year French stage races and taking an emphatic stage win at Paris-Nice. Now, with the new-look 2020 calendar laid out, it’s all eyes on the Tour, and Ardennes classics.
Quintana cited a new, happier environment as the thrust behind his early-season form, with leadership disputes and simmering tensions a thing of his Movistar past.
“We were on the right track,” Quintana told Eurosport’s La Montonera show. “The preparation has been the same as on other occasions with my coach who has been with me for a couple of years. Changing airs and new motivations influenced me to compete in a different way, because I still have the same [Canyon] bike as other seasons.”
Quintana left Movistar after an unhappy spell mired by leadership conflicts and dubious tactics that saw Quintana and co-leaders Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde scrap among themselves for sub-par GC positions at the Tour de France. Now the undisputed leader of his French team, Quintana has found his groove, and only sees the situation improving.
“The years go by and I already needed a change of scenery without controversy or wars, which is what I hate the most. I have found a place where I am comfortable and where I want to continue growing,” Quintana said Thursday.
“This team is very young with a great future ahead, and it is time to share advice and start directing all these cyclists. We have a very good director, and we know how to work and what teams to choose according to which races. All the teammates have a great level and great motivation.”
Quintana has spent much of the past months spinning out the days on the trainer while in confinement in Colombia. With the Tour falling just four weeks after the re-start of the 2020 season, Quintana, like the rest of the peloton, will be racing into the unknown when they roll out of Nice on August 29.
“The state of form with which we arrive is really an unknown quantity. Also the result of the race itself will be particular,” he said.
“In the end, there are colleagues who train five hours while there are other coaches who say that it is not even necessary to spend three hours. We have less preparation time and races like the Tour are very long tests – we don’t know how the body will react in the last week of the race if we have not had a block of load to prepare for that.”
Quintana was one of a limited handful of Colombian pros granted the right to train outside from the start of this month having been in lockdown since March. While he revealed that training data shows his build to the Tour is going as well as anticipated, he did express frustration at watching on as rivals from other nations were able to train on the road through spring.
Above all however, Quintana’s key concern is to get back into the thick of the action. As a second-tier French team, the Tour de France is arguably more important to Arkéa-Samsic’s financial stability than it is to most.
“It is a very worrying situation,” Quintana said. “My wish is that the competitions are reactivated because if there are no races, many of us in cycling will have many difficulties. At the moment teams and riders are experiencing financial difficulties and there will be budget cuts in the teams, as we have seen this past month. We hope that after this pandemic everything will calm down and restart, even if it is without an audience.”