Cycling teams do not normally take the step of responding to transfer speculation; it usually all happens behind closed doors, with agents trying to arrange things away from prying eyes. You will see a rumour in the media, but rarely an official confirmation or denial, until business is finally done.
This is what makes AG2R Citroën's official denial of interest in signing Nairo Quintana all the more interesting. Not only were they willing to tell people off the record that it wasn't happening, they felt they had to issue a firm rebuttal to the speculation.
"Contrary to an information released in different medias AG2R CITROËN TEAM has never had any contact with Nairo Quintana or his agent and is not interested by his recruitment," a message from the team read on Tuesday morning.
What this says about Quintana's status within the sport after his retrospective disqualification from the 2022 Tour de France, after two of his blood samples revealed the presence of the painkiller tramadol, or AG2R's need to reassure their riders or investors, is an interesting question.
While the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) didn’t include tramadol on its banned substance list, the painkiller had been banned by the UCI since March 2019 due to its adverse side effects. WADA has since outlawed its use.
The Colombian announced he will leave Arkéa-Samsic at the end of this season, just six weeks after he agreed a new three-year deal with the French team.
“I want to thank Arkéa-Samsic for these last three years,” the Colombian said in a message shared on his Instagram account. “We’ve had ups and downs, but I’ve been able to bring my experience to the team and collect UCI points.”
While the contract extension was announced by the team, French media said that nothing was officially signed between the rider and the team, which allowed Arkéa and Quintana to part ways.
French newspaper L'Equipe (opens in new tab) reported over the weekend that a separate French team had made a contract proposal, with their piece saying that it was a WorldTour squad.
The report cited "sources close to the Colombian", noting that a French team had already made him a contract proposal. With AG2R out, this leaves Cofidis or Groupama-FDJ, neither of whom have said anything, but the French paper also reported that Astana-Qazaqstan were interested; this might make more sense, with Vincenzo Nibali retiring this year.
However, time and opportunities are running out for the Colombian, who still has his disqualification due to tramadol and appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport hanging over him.
In his Instagram message over the weekend, Quintana said: “I will keep you informed on my future in the coming weeks and prove what an honest rider I am.
“I have brought an appeal before the CAS and I’m continuing to work with my team of lawyers. I’m optimistic because I am an honest person, I’ve done nothing wrong or illegal and I want to defend myself.”
With Quintana departing Arkéa, along with Brit Connor Swift, who has moved to Ineos Grenadiers, there are now spaces and funds available at the French ProTour team.
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