Nairo Quintana will not settle for his current fifth place on GC at the Tour de France, his sports director saying the Colombian is too strong not to try for better.
Despite losing 11 seconds on stage nine, missing the front selection of GC contenders, the Arkéa-Samsic climber is only 32 seconds down on Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), having weathered the first week well.
"I had a bad day, but we managed to limit the losses - 11 seconds isn’t that much," Quintana said of his stage nine performance. "After the first week, after everything that has happened so far, with the wind, the crashes, the mountains, the overall balance right now is very good.
"I was able to stay with the best on most days. The sensations that I have are good, and there’s still a lot of Tour ahead of us."
Quintana has admiration for Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), the young Slovenian boldly attacking his more experienced rivals, and the rider who kept him off the podium at the 2019 Vuelta a España.
"Right now, all of the favorites are very close. It’s true that Pogačar has a bit more right now. He’s daring and he has the legs to attack. He’s shown himself to be the strongest in the mountains right now. Fortunately, we gained a bit of time on him on the flats, which means the differences [to him] are not that big," Quintana said.
"We saw how he raced in the Vuelta last year and he’s doing the same thing here. When the leaders are left without helpers, he attacks with a force that very few can follow. That creates doubt among the others. He’s shown he’s strong and that he’s not afraid to attack. We still don’t know what he can do in three weeks at the Tour."
As for sports director Yvon Ledanois, he's not ready to settle for just a high place in the general classification.
"We’re not happy with fifth place. That’s not what we came for," he said. "We’ve seen some interesting things that make us believe that we can go even better in the GC. Seeing how strong Nairo is right now, settling just for fifth would be a bit of a disappointment."
The Frenchman reckons Quintana's experience will come into play as the race progresses, and that if he manages to maintain his current form he could end up in a place to try for yellow.
"Anyone can have a bad day, but Nairo and his experience, if he doesn’t have a bad moment, could let him race for the outright victory," Ledanois said.
"Everything is going to be decided in three mountain stage and the time trial - that’s when you have to be strong."
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