The Colombian climber said that he was still short of the levels of form of his rivals on the climb to Mount Etna, but said he hoped to have better legs come the second summit finish on Sunday.
“My objective on the first mountain stage was to be with my rivals and not to lose any time to them,” Quintana told AS.
“I’m lacking in race pace a lot, and I’m still not on the same level as my rivals. But it was the first serious day in the mountains and these early stages that precede the Blockhaus [stage nine’s summit finish] will help me get up to speed.”
Watch: Giro d’Italia stage four highlights
Lacking in form himself, Quintana was left to rely on his team-mates to chase down moves from the other GC contenders, giving particular praise to the work of Andrey Amador.
“Andrey was at the front of the peloton to control [Nibali’s] attack, and I was able to stay in the wheels,” Quintana continued.
“The team has been very good through all of the stages so far. Not just Amador, I’m very pleased with how the whole team is working here.”
Quintana should be able to enjoy a relatively relaxing next few days, with few climbs to test the legs of the GC contenders before the Blockhaus on Sunday.