Nairo Quintana: I wanted to be a track cyclist if the road didn't take off

The Colombian climber says he would have wanted to be a top track cyclist if his career didn't take off on the road

(Image credit: Watson)

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana, second to Team Sky's Chris Froome in the Tour de France twice, would have liked to race on the track had his road career not taken off.

Movistar's captain is racing the Tour de San Luis in Argentina this week as he prepares for the 2016 Tour and Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He finished eighth on the summit finish to Cerro El Amago today.

"A top track cyclist," Quintana told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper about his other career idea.

"I never rode on the track, but I went to see the races. It's impressive to see how fast they go on bikes without brakes and gear changes. Then the public is so close to the riders, they buy tickets, like in tennis or football. It's different and intriguing."

Track cycling is hugely popular in Colombia, which regularly hosts World Cups and in 2014, the World Championships. Etixx–Quick-Step's new sprint star, Fernando Gaviria first made his name on the track and now counts an omnium gold medal.

Watch: Chris Froome discusses his 2016 goals

Five-foot-six Quintana, from the East Andes, appears suited for the high Grand Tour passes. He nearly toppled Froome on the famous Alpe d'Huez climb last July. He put time into his rival, but it was not enough to overcome the loss he suffered on stage two in the Dutch cross-winds.

"In 2015, I was prepared and worked meticulously," Quintana said. "In 2013, when I was second, I didn't expect it, it wasn't planned."

Quintana quickly became cycling's king of the mountains in the 2013 Tour de France. Then only 23, in his first Tour, he was the only rival that came close to beating Froome at 4-20 minutes in the general classification. However, he had made his name known with not only second overall, but the white jersey, the polka-dot jersey and one stage win.

Movistar put him on a path to win the Giro d'Italia in 2014. He began the year with the overall win in San Luis and went on to reach the team's goal – the first South American to win the overall. Last year, he returned to take on Froome, but fell short. It is his goal again in 2016.

"Even if I've not won, the Tour hasn't become an obsession. I just have to train well and not have bad luck," Quintana added.

"Froome? He's not an enemy, but a rival. We don't speak often, but we've never had problems."

Quintana's track takes him to Europe later this year. His first race on the continent should be the Volta a Catalunya, where, among others, he will take on Froome.

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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.