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July 1, 2016 – Nairo Quintana says he’s trained specifically to resist any early attacks from chief rival Chris Froome at the Tour de France. Froome won the Tour in 2013 and last year, with Colombian climber Quintana finishing second to him on both occasions.
Froome started faster each time and built up a lead before Quintana pegged him back in the final week. Both times, though, he ran out of road. Last year, Froome made his move on the first summit finish of the Tour in the 10th stage, gaining more than a minute on Movistar’s Quintana. And in 2013, it was stage eight up to Ax 3 Domaines where Sky’s Froome made his move and Quintana couldn’t follow.
“I’ve trained to be able to respond to those strong attacks from Froome. When he starts, it’s really difficult to stop him, like we saw at La Pierre Saint-Martin last year — I couldn’t follow him,” said the 26-year-old at Friday’s press conference in Saint-Lo. “I hope this year to be able to hold onto him.”
For many experts, this year’s Tour is likely to turn into a two-way battle between the two favourites, although Alberto Contador may also manage to turn back the clock and add a third title after wins in 2007 and 2009.
But Quintana feels there are others who could cause an upset, although he acknowledges that the mountain-heavy route could play into his hands.
“I think I’m happier than other years. The mountains are good for me, I like them… so I’m definitely happy,” said Quintana, the 2014 Giro d’Italia champion. “I have to keep focused not only on the big favorites like Froome and Contador but also dangerous riders such as (Thibaut) Pinot and (Fabio) Aru, who’ve already proved to be tough rivals.”
Quintana was a revelation at the 2013 Tour when only 23, but he was tactically naive at the time. On that stage eight won by Froome, the Colombian attacked too early and paid for it later.
Since then he’s developed a habit of saving his strength for the final week of Grand Tours. But Froome has changed his training this year to try to finish the Tour stronger, and Quintana says that may make him harder to beat than ever. “I’ve not seen any weaknesses (in Froome), maybe the one is that he’s less strong in the last week but I have heard he has prepared especially for the third week in this Tour, so it won’t be a weakness.”
Still, Quintana has come on a long way and feels he is better able to gauge his own efforts than in previous years. “I’ve learned many things: to control my strength, not only my own strength but also my team’s strength,” he said.
“Also, to be more relaxed during the race and how to recognize dangers in the road.” All the talking and musing is over now with the Grand Depart set for Saturday. “I have prepared for the Tour as best as I can to finally achieve my yellow dream!” said Quintana.