Quintana takes the high road en route to Tour

Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:18pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Nairo Quintana has flown under the radar in the build-up to the Tour de France and although his team manager has cautioned against his inexperience, the Movistar rider could become the first Colombian to win the Grande Boucle.

The 25-year-old spent about six weeks in his home country training at altitude while other big guns were checking out Tour stages and racing in the Tour de Suisse or the Criterium du Dauphine week long races.

It was a program that suited Quintana well in 2013, when he finished second overall on his Tour debut before going on to win the Giro d'Italia a year later.

He skipped the Tour that year and this year's race seems tailor-made for the swarthy-faced climber who should relish the mountain stages.

Looking to ease the pressure on his protege, Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue told Reuters that Quintana was still learning.

"You could say Nairo, after what he's achieved in the past two years, is the favorite for the Tour de France, having won last year's Giro," he said.

"But the truth is that the Tour is something else. The three big favorites are Alberto (Contador), (Vincenzo) Nibali and (Chris) Froome. They have something fundamental that Nairo does not have: experience on the Tour de France."

Defending champion Nibali has four Tour starts (for a total of 12 grand tours) under his belt, 2013 champion Chris Froome has four (9), and double winner Alberto Contador has seven (13), while Quintana only has one Tour start (four in grand tours) to show for himself.   Continued...

Movistar cyclist Nairo Quintana of Colombia reacts during the presentation of Movistar's cycling team in Madrid January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Juan Medina