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Speaking at the start of his 2016 season, Nairo Quintana has said that increased physical maturity experience have given him confidence as he heads towards his major goal of taking this year’s Tour de France.
“This year is my third attempt. I hope it’s the one I win,” he said prior to the start of the Tour de San Luis. “Every year I feel more mature and better prepared to face it, and try to win it.
“I’ll definitely keep trying until I succeed.”
Quintana had the best debut in recent Tour history in 2013 when he finished a brilliant second overall to Chris Froome. He didn’t ride the race the following year, instead winning the Giro d’Italia and then going on to the Vuelta a España, but returned last season to once again finish as runner-up to Froome.
He was stronger in the final week and took time out of the Briton in the final mountain stages, eventually ending the race one minute and 12 seconds back.
Had there been one more summit finish, many believe he could have taken the race outright.
Now 25 years of age, Quintana is beginning his build-up to what he hopes will be a successful July.
His programme will see him do the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta al Pais Vasco, then ride the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de Romandie prior to a block back home in Colombia.
He’ll then return for the Route du Sud and Tour de France, and go on to tackle two more targets: the Olympic Games in Rio and the Vuelta a España.
Before then, he is aiming to ride strongly in the next few days in Argentina, but also sets what he believes is a realistic target.
“I’ve been completing my winter training. I’m starting with San Luis to see what shape I’m in,” he said. “The main idea is to fight for the podium.
“The season is too long to be thinking of winning immediately.”
The Colombian rider took the Tour de San Luis in 2014 and, despite his protestations that he isn’t aiming to win this time around, will be watched closely by all of his rivals.
He has a chance early on to gain time on some or all of them, with the opening team time trial potentially giving his Movistar squad a chance to shine.
“We are used to this type of race,” Quintana admitted. “The team is ready. It’s going to be quite a spectacle, because it is like a procession all the way through San Luis, all the riders that the people want to see up close.”
The crowds in South America are very passionate, something he knows from his time growing up in Colombia. They will urge he and the other riders on this week, giving encouragement in this first season race.
He recognises the blossoming interest in cycling in Argentina, and is encouraged by it.
“With all the development that the Tour of San Luis has seen, and the growth in cycling, the kids are getting into sport,” he stated.
“I heard the Governor say that he was handing out bikes so that the kids could get to school. It sounded wonderful to me.
“And in my country, we’ve been wanting to do the same thing.
“The message I would like to give is that sport is for winners, especially if you stick with your studies too.”