Nairo Quintana appears to be improving from a cold that forced him to take antibiotics. It is good timing if he wants to upset Giro d’Italia race leader Rigoberto Urán in Alps. Today, weather permitting, the race is due to climb the Gavia and the Stelvio passes en route to Val Martello.
“In the next stages there will be many attacks,” team Movistar’s Colombian leader said. “I don’t know if [Urán] has the team to control them.”
Quintana placed second overall behind Chris Froome at the Tour de France last year. He made his move in the final mountain stages, on the last one above Annecy, he won, jumped to second overall and took the young rider’s white jersey.
At the Giro d’Italia, he lost time in the 60-rider crash at the base of Montecassino and in the Barolo time trial. He also had the flu and a throat infection. He now sits fifth overall at 2-40 minutes behind Urán of team Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
“I’m feeling my legs better with every single day passing by, and I hope to fight for the podium, at least,” Quintana said. “Despite all problems I had, I’m still here. I’m sure I would have lost much less time than I did to Rigo if I had had good health – yet he still did a spectacular TT. It’s beautiful, this rivalry between Colombians. Both of us have our own fans and ride differently. If I don’t win, I prefer him to do it, and for Colombia.”
The 24-year-old surprised many followers at the Tour last year. The hope is that he can do the same, starting with Val Martello today and start to make up his deficit. Ahead, he has Fabio Aru (fourth), Rafal Majka (third) and Cadel Evans (second).
Urán’s team has proved up to the job so far. Each day, Wout Poels and Gianluca Brambilla take turns pulling their Colombian leader into the final kilometres.
“Urán has the advantage, and even he’s losing a bit of time every day at the moment, it’s not a big gap,” he added. “I still consider Pozzovivo as a big favourite – he’s strong, and so is his [Ag2r] team. Evans lost more time and seems like he’s losing his strength,” said Quintana
“From what’s left, the mountain time trial should cause the biggest gaps. On normal conditions, it favours me more than Urán because I’m a better climber, but we have yet to see how I get over my health troubles. I don’t know how I will feel in the next few days.”
Cadel Evans loses 31 seconds to Giro d'Italia leader Rigoberto Uran on a tough day to Plan di Montecampione
Images from stage 15 of the 2014 Giro d'Italia, won solo by Fabio Aru. Photos by Graham Watson