This story first appeared on VeloNews.com.
Nairo Quintana received a lifeline from a third-tier Colombian team as his future remains uncertain in the wake of his tramadol case.
Team Medellín EPM, a Continental-level squad, posted a social media message offering Quintana a spot on its team for 2023. There was no immediate response, but the team promised an international calendar to keep the two-time grand tour winner busy.
“Nairo is our great representative of Colombian cycling to the world. For this reason, from Team Medellín EPM, we offer you to continue your sports career with us with a wide national and international calendar,” a note read. “How proud it would be for Medellín for you to represent us.”
Quintana, 33 in February, is at a career crossroads following a setback after the Court of Arbitration for Sport denied his appeal in the UCI’s disqualification of his 2022 Tour de France results after tramadol was found in his system during two controls in July.
Though it won’t be on the WADA banned list until 2024, tramadol is prohibited in competition by the UCI.
Quintana denied taking the opioid painkiller, but his CAS reversal sees him stranded without a team going into 2023.
Arkéa-Samsic, which he joined in 2020, pulled out of a three-year contract extension with Quintana this summer following the tramadol case, and has since distanced itself from the Colombian superstar.
A few WorldTour teams publicly denied they were pursuing Quintana for 2023, and it remains to be seen if a major team will pick him up next season.
Quintana continues to train and will host his Gran Fondo Nairo in Medellín this weekend.
Víctor Hugo Peña, speaking in the Colombian media, said he expects Quintana to keep racing.
“This is proving hard for him, but that’s when the great ones are forged,” said Peña, the first Colombian to wear the yellow jersey.
“I confide in him, and he’s a strong guy, who’ll cry, wipe away the tears, and he will continue,” Peña said. “I am positive he will not give up. What he has to do is speak with his legs, and do what he’s always done, this guy with a hard and strong face. Now is the time that he has to go forward, and that would be one of his most important victories.”
Quintana last raced at the world championship in Australia.
Quintana vowed to keep racing and remains a force to contend with, riding to sixth overall in the Tour, a result that was later erased from the results sheet.
Quintana has raced at the WorldTour level since 2012, and it remains to be seen where he might land going into 2023.