After an impressive start to the season, Nairo Quintana will now focus on completing his set of Grand Tour victories at the Tour de France this summer.
Many were left confused when Quintana opted for ProTeam outfit Arkéa-Samsic as his destination away from Movistar, yet the Colombian’s results so far indicate the partnership will be a fruitful one.
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After overall victories at the Tour de La Provence and Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, Quintana took his first Paris-Nice stage victory on the summit finish of the final stage seven. Next, he wants to win the summer’s French Grand Tour.
“The focus is now on the Tour and we are of course going for the overall victory,” his sports director Yvon Ledanois told Wielerflits.
With more than 100 days to go until the Tour de France, race director Christian Prudhomme is confident the race will go ahead despite the spate of current cancellations as the world tries to get to grips with the coronavirus outbreak.
If the Tour de France is the first major race back after the enforced break, it could see Quintana embark on his yellow jersey quest from the same French city as his previous race, with the Tour’s Grand Départ taking place in Nice this year.
His competition seems to have woken up to his form as well, with Thibaut Pinot’s Groupama-FDJ sports director Philippe Mauduit saying Quintana looks the best he has in years.
“We see a new Quintana. I haven’t seen him ride so strong in years,” Mauduit told Le Télégramme. “I think he had some difficult years at Movistar, but he has now regained his motivation and freedom.”
Quintana won the Tour de La Provence with a sensational ride up Mont Ventoux to Chalet Reynard, setting a new record according to some.
The 30-year-old’s record-breaking rides haven’t stopped there, though, as on stage seven of Paris-Nice Quintana also apparently beaten the record on the La Colmiane climb as he rode to the stage victory.
According to Climbing Records, Quintana completed the 16.3km-long, 6.2% gradient climbing 38-51, posting an average speed of 25.17km/h. This took the record off Simon Yates, who had set a time of 40-45 with an average speed of 24km/h in 2018. While Quintana appears to have hit a rich vein of form, apparently Yates’ ride was inhibited by very poor weather.
Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt was the last man of the breakaway to be caught, with Quintana making the catch with 3km to go.
“Quintana passed like a whirlwind,” De Gendt told Het Nieuwsblad. “There was no question of getting on his wheel. He was going six or seven kilometres an hour faster.
“The last time my sports director Maxime Monfort gave me the time gap, my lead was 35 seconds. Quintana then pretty much passed me half a minute later.”
One particular rider Quintana beat is an Italian he will be hoping to replicate by also claiming all three Grand Tours. Trek-Segafredo’s Vincenzo Nibali finished fifth, alongside Thibaut Pinot and Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling), and was full of praise for his rival.
“Nairo is experiencing a peak of exceptional condition,” Nibali told Tuttobici. “[He was] very difficult for everyone to beat today.”
Quintana will now face a challenge to maintain his form for whenever racing does resume, saying after the stage that he will return home to Colombia for the time being. He will be hoping to return to Europe in good time before the 2020 Tour.