Having left his Movistar at the end of last season, Nairo Quintana is now free to publicly reflect on his successes and failures with the Spanish WorldTour team.
The Colombian Grand Tour star has shared his thoughts in an interview with ESPN Bike, admitting that Chris Froome was “stronger” in previous races but that Team Ineos played a large role in his four Tour de France victories.
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Froome, winner of seven Grand Tour’s to Quintana’s two, responded to Unuè’s comments with a laughing emoji on Twitter and said the “headline did make me laugh a little” but that he had the utmost respect for his long-standing rival.
Quintana said: “I read the Froome thing. We know he’s had a strong team and that they’ve saved him in many moments. But also it’s true that he was stronger than me.
“The good fortune he’s had in being on that team has taken him to where he is. As for myself, I fought as hard as I could and will keep fighting.”
Responding to Unuè’s comments, Froome had said: “To be clear I have the utmost respect for Nairo and racing against him over the years has been an absolute pleasure.
“That headline did make me laugh a little though.”
Quintana, who was on stellar form in 2020 with two general classification victories before the coronavirus crisis, also reflected on the 2015 Tour de France, which saw him finish in second, just over a minute behind Froome.
The 30-year-old blames the loss on an unnamed team-mate, who Quintana believes cost him the win on stage 20 to Alpe d’Huez.
Quintana went into the stage almost three minutes down on Froome but found himself on a storming day.
Alejandro Valverde, Quintana’s Movistar team-mate, attacked from the peloton multiple times on the Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez, setting up Quintana to take second on the stage and take more than a minute out of the yellow jersey.
Looking back on that day of racing, Quintana said: “We started with a clear strategy. Some team-mates cooperated very well, others did not. There was a certain point during that ride when it became impossible for me to win the Tour and it was because of a team-mate. The rider in question knows what I’m taking about.”
He added: “I remember it as a sad day, because the opportunity passed me by.”