Colombian Duber Quintero may have escaped for the Tour de Langkawi title. In stage one, he broke free with three others and arrived 1-18 minutes ahead of the overall favourites. Team Colombia helped him survive stage two north of Kuala Lumpur still in the leader’s yellow jersey. Only the Genting Highlands climb remains as the major obstacle.
“I’m not a climber like my Colombia team-mates,” Quintero told Cycling Weekly. “I go well in the medium mountains, on the flats and descents.”
Quintero, 23 years old from Neiva south of Bogotá, paused. He added, “I think I will be able to hang on and finish this race with the lead.”
The Tour de Langkawi brought six WorldTour teams and five second division teams, including Colombia. The overall favourites include Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) and Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin). The experts never named Quintero as a favourite ahead of the race.
The Genting Highlands climb decided most of Langkawi’s previous 18 editions. It rises from near zero to 1625 metres. This year, the organiser scheduled it as the race’s only major climb.
Even if Quintero, not Quintana like Colombian Nairo Quintana who placed second to Chris Froome at the Tour de France, loses one minute he should still be able to maintain the yellow jersey. The following six flat stages appear likely to end in sprint finishes.
Julian Arredondo would be happy. The Colombian won the Tour de Langkawi last year, signed from a third division team to Trek Factory Racing and won a stage in the Tour de San Luis last month. He also helped bring Quintero from Colombia to Italy.
“He put in a word for me,” Quintero said. “Thanks to him, I made my way to Europe.”
Quintero, two years younger, raced in the north of Italy near Brescia while Arredondo continued based in the Tuscany. In Lombardy, Claudio Corti noted Quintero and gave him a chance to ride a trainee in 2012. He placed third in a stage of the Tour of Portugal and earned himself a two-year contract for 2013 and 2014.
“I know I’ll need to join a first division team like Sky to have a chance to race all the big races,” he added. “I want to finish this race and to become a great cyclist at the top level. I want to win a lot of races, like Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”
Having the yellow jersey should help his confidence. The Genting Highlands stage, if he wins, will send him further along his path to greatness.