Nairo Quintana (Movistar) says that he is stronger than ever for the “dogfight” to come in the Tour de France over the next two weeks.
The Colombian, who has held back his attacks so far, trails leader Chris Froome (Sky) by 23 seconds on the first of two rest days.
“The Tour is long and there are many more mountains to come,” Quintana said on Monday in Andorra. “We can’t pin it on a single day, I have to go day by day and see a possibility of attack.
“This year, [Froome] said that he had delayed his preparation to be stronger in the last week. We are surprised, so we do not know what to expect. I am also prepared. Surely we’ll find ourselves in a dogfight and the legs will decide.”
The Tour restarts from the small principality of Andorra on Tuesday and heads back into France. The next mountain day comes on Thursday, when the race finishes on Mont Ventoux.
Quintana has followed, not attacked, so far in the mountains. Froome rode away from all of his rivals on the descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon to take the yellow jersey and on Sunday, he and Quintana followed while Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), Daniel Martin (Etixx–QuickStep) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) attacked to form the final select group up Arcalís.
“There’s either two possibilities, he either didn’t want to or he couldn’t [attack],” Sky boss David Brailsford said earlier on Monday.
“When you get into a situation where Dan Martin attacks, Richie Porte attacks. There’s a flurry of attacks. Normally if you are feeling pretty good, Nairo is not shy of putting his nose into the wind. It was strange, but equally, he could be riding a super conservative race and picking his moments.”
The moment could come and it could be a true dogfight. The top ten is closer than ever with only 61 seconds separating first and 10th place. Quintana trailed by 1-59 minutes at this point last year. In 2013, it was 2-02.
“[Sky’s strength] is not demotivating. We also have our team with great riders. We can work differently. If I was not motivated, I’d be further back in the standings,” added Quintana.
“On previous occasions, I’d lost much more. Now, it’s at 23 seconds and much remains to cover in this Tour to try to take time. Froome is quite strong and his team is very powerful, but I am better than other years.”