With the Giro d'Italia now little more than a week away, pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana has revealed a few details about his preparation for the Italian race, and how he has altered his riding to make sure that he will also be in top form for the Tour de France come July.
Quintana will be attempting to become the first rider since Marco Pantani to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, and says that he and his coach have tried to strike a balance between racing and training in the first few months of the season, coming up with multiple plans for how to prepare for the Tour after finishing the Giro.
"I think 19 days of racing before the Giro is enough," said the Movistar rider. "I feel I'm where I am supposed to be - because you can never forget that there's the Tour after the Giro.
"You can't add too many days to your racing schedule, otherwise you end up cooked. It's all about keeping the momentum after some good racing and training."
The Movistar climber has not raced since winning Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March, spending the last six weeks training at altitude in Colombia.
"I've spend more than a month in Colombia training at home," Quintana continued.
"My coach came to spend some time by my side and stay focused specifically on the first goal to win the Giro.
"Those weeks on home soil and the three weeks of racing I will have at the Giro should take me to the Tour in perfect shape."
Watch: Giro d'Italia essential guide
For the last couple of years Quintana has competed in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, and although he was able to win the Vuelta in 2016 after finishing third in the Tour, he insists that it is hard to compare his Tour/Vuelta efforts with this year's attempt at the Giro and Tour.
"It was all about the Tour in previous season and the Vuelta was only an afterthought, we didn't base our efforts on saving energy for it.
"This time though, we knew we had to aim for both races, and the preparations have changed.
"It has also meant I wasn’t racing the exact same races as I did in previous years - the plan was getting to Colombia earlier, rest up, train more and approach the Giro fresher.
"We also took on some more TT training during my stay in Colombia, as we kept in mind that the Giro has included a longer time trial in this year’s course. We’ve also made some changes on our TT bike setup, and that will require some more late training to get used to it."
While the 27-year-old's last minute preparations for the Giro are set in stone, he says that the team has different plans to choose from for his Tour preparation, depending on his condition after three weeks of racing in Italy.
"I’ve got my mind on both the Giro and the Tour. I remain calm because my training and physical condition have gone as we expected, and I think that, if things go right at the Giro, I’ll tackle the Tour in good condition.
"We’ll wait until the end of the Giro to decide on how I’ll get prepared for the Tour in June. We’ve got two or three different plans, and when the Giro is over we’ll decide what’s best."
Quintana also took the opportunity to assess his main rivals, echoing the sentiments of many by picking out defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) as his main rival.
"My biggest rival should be Nibali," he said. "This is ‘his’ race, he’s at home, it’s the 100th Giro. Surely he’ll reach the start in very good shape, and with his team racing it together for the first time, they’ll surely want to make their mark.
"The other main contenders have pretty much equal chances, and we shouldn’t rule anyone out. [Thibaut] Pinot is a strong climber, one who copes well with the toughest courses, a real fighter. [Steven]Kruiswijk - well, everyone could see he’d have won the Giro if not for that bad crash.
"[Mikel] Landa has also come close to winning this race, and the course always suits him well because of the long, steady, tough climbs.
"All of them have got more mature year by year, and that will make extremely difficult to beat them."
The 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia gets underway on Friday, May 5, with the first three stages on the island of Sardinia. From there the race will move to Sicily for a summit finish on Mount Etna before making its way northwards towards a decisive final week in the Alps, and a time trial on the final day to Milan.
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