Nairo Quintana intends to stay in contention on the flat, cross-wind stages of Grand Tours in the coming years. His Movistar team says it is why he is racing in the Middle East, in the Abu Dhabi Tour, for the first time this month.
Quintana just won the Volta a Valenciana thanks to a summit stage win on Saturday, the day of his 27th birthday. His next race will be the four-day tour in the United Arab Emirates, February 23 to 26.
"To mature as a complete rider, Nairo should do well in flat stages for sprinters, with wind, sand and echelons, as well as races with team time trials," Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzué told El País newspaper. "And in Abu Dhabi, he'll also have a summit finish."
The Colombian has never raced the Middle Eastern races since turning professional. Fellow Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) won the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2015 when it still occupied an October slot.
Last week in the Dubai Tour, wind ripped the peloton to bits in the third stage. So concerned, the organiser cancelled the next day's stage given a similar forecast.
One could argue Quintana lost the 2015 Tour de France due to the cross-winds and crashes in the first road stage along the Netherlands's west coast to Neeltje Jans. That day, he trailed Froome to the line by 1-28 minutes. After gains in the mountains, he finished the Tour second at 1-12 minutes.
Froome caught the five-foot-five 121-pound climber, and everyone else, off-guard in 2016 on the flat wind-swept roads to Montpellier. He and team-mate Geraint Thomas joined an attack by Peter Sagan and his team-mate. He finished six seconds ahead on Quintana, which turned into a 12-second gain with time bonuses.
Quintana began his bid for the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France titles in Spain with the Challenge Mallorca and last week, the Volta a Valenciana. He won the race by putting 40 seconds to a minute into his rivals on the Llucena summit finish. 2016 victor Wout Poels (Sky) finished the stage 48 seconds behind.
He is the first star to take aim at the Giro/Tour double since Alberto Contador in 2015. The last to win both in the same year was Marco Pantani in 1998.
"This year, we have in mind some very clear objectives, which are the Giro and the Tour, and we know that preparation will be key," Quintana said.
Quintana faces three flat and technical stages for the start of the Giro in Sardinia. The race then transfers to Sicily before travelling the length of the country's boot from the south. He has never raced on the two islands before.
After Abu Dhabi, Quintana will race Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico tour mid-March.
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