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Quintana: ‘We’ve learned from our errors’

Nairo Quintana is resolute in his plan to win the Tour de France. With Movistar focused on that goal as well, the dream may come true soon.

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Nairo Quintana remains bullish on his chances to win the Tour de France. Despite falling short in a bid to knock Chris Froome off his throne in July, Quintana’s revenge with a dramatic Vuelta a España victory a few weeks later gives him reason to believe.

As the Colombian star prepares for the 2017 season, including a possible run at a second Giro d’Italia pink jersey, Quintana remains defiant that he will win the Tour sooner or later.

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“The ‘yellow jersey’ dream remains alive,” Quintana said. “We keep fighting, and we keep learning. The Tour remains the top goal.”

Those comments came during Movistar’s annual pre-season get-together last month, and confirm Quintana’s top goal next season will be the Tour even if he does decide to race the Giro. Team manager Eusebio Unzué floated the idea of a Giro-Tour double, but the team has yet to officially confirm Quintana’s 2017 schedule.

Last year, Quintana entered the 2016 campaign hoping to become Colombia’s first Tour winner, and unveiled his “sueño amarillo” (yellow jersey dream) campaign to give him extra focus. Things didn’t go as well as he wanted during the Tour, yet he still managed to finish third overall, giving him three podium finishes in three Tour de France starts.

Bolstered by his Vuelta victory over such rivals as Froome, Alberto Contador, and Esteban Chaves, Quintana is even more confident one day that a yellow jersey will be his. And he insists that his hiccups during this year’s deflated showdown against Froome in France had nothing to do with his legs or cracking under the pressure of trying to win.

“It wasn’t a question of pressure, but of health,” Quintana said in Pamplona in meetings to map out his 2017 season. “My body didn’t react the way I had expected. I had some struggles with the allergies, and I couldn’t perform the way I had expected, so I had to think more about the podium than winning.”

Unzué, meanwhile, said the team is fully backing Quintana as its lone GC candidate next season, confirming that Alejandro Valverde will revert to his stage-hunting and support role to Quintana during the grand tours. And Unzué, who helped Miguel Indurain win five straight Tours in the Banesto days, said time is on Quintana’s side.

“After winning the Giro and Vuelta, obviously the next big step is the Tour,” Unzué said of Quintana. “It’s always difficult to win, but one day it will arrive. We believe he will win it sooner or later, because he has a Tour in his legs.”

Movistar teammate Rory Sutherland, who rode in support of Quintana at the Vuelta a España, said he marvels at people who think that Quintana’s Tour was somehow disappointing and said that Quintana is singularly driven to become the first Latin American to win the Tour.

“You just came third in the Tour — that’s disappointing? Really?” Sutherland said. “Nairo left the Tour disappointed, but what does he do? He didn’t mess around with criteriums and stuff like that. He trained hard, and came back to ready to win the Vuelta. Nairo has that taste of nearly winning the Tour, and it’s kind of stuck in him. Nairo is younger, and with the amount of pressure and having an entire nation behind you, I don’t know how you function. It’s something you have to learn to deal with. He’s very ambitious.”

For Quintana, the “yellow jersey dream” remains for much alive.

“I am more confident, the team is more consolidated, and we keep working for the best possible manner,” he said. “We’ve learned from our errors, and we will be even better.”