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Former Tour de France yellow jersey Victor Hugo Peña has said that he is confident that his fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana has what it takes to win the Tour de France, but that it is impossible to say it is guaranteed to happen.
The ex-professional has competed alongside the 2014 Giro d’Italia winner in the past and believes that his abilities are clear. “Nairo is a good friend,” he told CyclingTips. “I was with this guy in the Colombia es Pasion team, and I know that he has real talent.
“I don’t know if he is definitely going to win the Tour, but I know he is a rider who could do it, for sure. There are always five, six guys who can win the Tour, but just one who actually can do it. He is one of those guys who can win the Tour.”
Quintana had a staggering debut in the Tour de France in 2013, finishing second in his first attempt at the race. Despite that, his team decided not to enter him into this year’s race, preferring to ask him to do the Giro/Vuelta a España programme.
The thinking behind that was partially to keep pressure off him, and also to enable the Movistar co-leader Alejandro Valverde to have one final run as the number one on the roster. From next season, he will likely have to support Quintana in the Tour.
The double Grand Tour programme started off well when Quintana dominated the Giro d’Italia, winning the race by almost three minutes ahead of compatriot Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
He then took up where he left off in the Vuelta a España, leading the race heading into stage nine. However he crashed heavily in the stage 10 time trial and had to withdraw the following day.
Quintana has recovered from that and is building towards what he, and Peña, hope will be a very successful 2015 season.
Asked about his former team-mate’s personality, Peña said that Quintana is a very down to earth person.
“He is a little bit focussed about everything, about his cycling ambitions. But in another way, he is a real guy, human, calm. He is not crazy. He talks easy. He is not stand-offish. He is very normal,” he said.
“Nairo is a guy you can meet and enjoy a coffee and talk about cycling or his parents or whatever. He is not like someone from another world. He has his feet firmly on the earth.”
Colombia made a big impression on the world of cycling in the 1980s, with riders such as Lucho Herrera and Fabio Parra taking major victories. The country has had a resurgence of late and there are indications that various riders will be fighting for big wins in the years to come.
Peña is convinced that more young talent is coming through. “You have to pay attention to Miguel Angel Lopez. This guy will be something special,” he predicted, speaking about this year’s Tour de l’Avenir champion who has signed for Astana.
He also spoke of a rider who he said will be racing for Lampre-Merida in 2015, multiple Pan-Am champ Eduardo Estrada. “He is 19 years old, he is also a good talent,” he said. “In fact, at this moment there are a lot of young guys doing good results. In the future they can do really good things.”