Nairo Quintana says he’s the outright leader of the Movistar team for the Tour de France in July, despite riding alongside Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.
Quintana, currently training in his home country of Colombia, is likely to return to competition at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June having not raced since the GP Miguel Indurain in early April.
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The 29-year-old started his European season at Paris-Nice in March, where he finished second overall behind compatriot Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), before heading to the Volta a Catalunya where he finished fourth overall. His only win of the season so far came at the Tour Colombia with victory on stage six.
The Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España winner has made no secret of the Tour being his major objective for the 2019 season, with the route extremely favourable to his attributes.
This year’s Tour de France features just one individual time trial (27km), but has five summit finishes, three of which finish at over 2,000m in altitude, meaning the 106th edition could be Quintana’s best opportunity yet.
“I come to the Tour with more experience, knowing more about my body, the team and the route,” Quintana told the press at a conference in Bogotá.
“I am focused on this goal and I trust in my preparation, I always give the best. For me this Tour is simply a new opportunity that I will take full advantage of and I hope that things go well.”
In last year’s Tour, Spanish team Movistar went with a three-pronged leadership of Quintana, Valverde and Landa, with Landa taking the best GC finish in seventh place at over seven minutes down on winner Geraint Thomas.
Quintana, a three-time podium finisher at the Tour, took 10th place overall but salvaged the team’s only win of the race with victory atop the Col du Portet on stage 17.
While all three riders are again likely head to the Tour in the same team, Quintana says that team boss Eusebio Unzué has been clear that he will lead the squad. He added that he would also like to have current Giro d’Italia leader Richard Carapaz as part of the squad in July.
“Eusebio Unzué has told me that I will be the leader for the Tour, so I have been preparing for that and I hope to count on the support of my team-mates,” Quintana said.
“I hope [Carapaz] can keep the pink jersey for his country, for Colombia and for all of Latin America. I’d like to have him with me on the Tour as I would like to have Winner Anacona, but the directors choose the best riders; in contention there’s also big riders like Valverde.”
Quintana has been rumoured to be leaving Movistar at the end of the season, with French team Arkéa-Samsic touted as frontrunners to sign him as they look to move up from Pro Continental to WorldTour level.
The Tour de France 2019 begins on July 6 and ends on July 28.