The 2019 season was inevitably set to be Nairo Quintana‘s last at Movistar, though cycling fans were left to wait to find out where he would be riding next.
It was announced late in the year that the Colombian would join French UCI ProTeam Arkéa-Samsic with a small Colombian group around him to lead the team at races like the Tour de France.
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Speaking to Colombia’s El Tiempo, the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España winner said he’s not unhappy about dropping down a level.
“I do not regret having dropped a rank,” Quintana said. “I wanted to be happy, I did not want to argue with the other leaders, waging war is not my way of working. We have a lot of responsibility in this adventure. Winning is good, it gives me confidence and joy.”
Movistar’s stacked line-up of Grand Tour contenders, including Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, meant it was not always clear who was leading the Spanish team.
While all three finished in the top-10 at last year’s Tour with Quintana winning a stage, Landa was the team’s best placed rider on general classification in sixth place at 4-23 back on the race winner Egan Bernal (Team Ineos).
Quintana says he is now focused on getting back to his best with his new team and the riders around him. The 30-year-old has already taken five wins this season, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means it is unclear when he’ll be able to race again.
“We are calm and growing,” Quintana said. “We have to keep improving. We don’t have a team like Ineos but we work to have the best riders and have more support.”
“It was a risky decision [moving to Arkéa]. We studied what the team gave us and the options to compete in the UCI WorldTour and more specifically in the Tour de France, which was the most important thing.”
He continued: “When they confirmed that there would be no problems competing in the Tour, I did not hesitate and signed.”
The main surprise was that Quintana dropped down a level from WorldTour to ride with Arkéa-Samsic, but he says doesn’t see it that as an issue, with the team regularly receiving invites to top-level races.
“I do not hide from anyone for lowering a category. I do not miss riding in the WorldTour. We were going to compete in several races of the circuit such as Volta a Catalunya, the Ardennes Classics, Tirreno-Adriatico … I wasn’t worried about not being on the WorldTour.”
Quintana has been perfoming excellently in his opening races for his new team, winning the Tour de la Provence overall, thanks to an scintillating ride up to Chalet Reynard on Mont Ventoux.
He also won the final stage of Paris-Nice on La Colmiane with a late attack.
Landa also moved on from Movistar for 2020, joining Bahrain-McLaren where he has already performed well earlier this year in Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.