Category: Nairo Quintana

Movistar will return to Tour with trio of stars

Despite a bumpy ride last year, Movistar is packing all of its firepower into the Tour with hope of dislodging Ineos and Chris Froome

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Movistar bat away transfer rumors as team zeroes in on Giro

Landa, Carapaz and Quintana have all been linked with moves to rival teams

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Quintana, Bernal poised for Paris-Nice clash

The two Colombian stars are at different stages of their careers, and they’ll face off this weekend on a relatively unknown climb in France.

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Defending champ Soler will return to Paris-Nice with Quintana

Movistar’s Nairo Quintana will make his European season debut at Paris-Nice Sunday alongside defending champ Marc Soler.

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Roundtable: Five riders who need to win big in 2019

It is the new year, and with the Santos Tour Down Under right around the corner, the pro road season is nearly upon us. It is an exciting time for fans and riders alike, but it is also a time of increased pressure for top riders who are hungry for big victories. While Geraint Thomas and Alejandro Valverde celebrated huge successes in 2018, plenty of other up-and-comers and big stars stumbled. For some pros, 2019 will be a make-or-break year.

Here are five riders who need to win big this season.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo)

Richie Porte
Richie Porte has won plenty of yellow jerseys … except they have been in one-week races like Tour de Suisse. Can he step it up in 2019? Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: My new year’s resolution is to stop bagging on Richie Porte … But Richie needs to hold up his end of the bargain too. It feels like we have hyped up the Tasmanian for ages. He was fifth at the 2016 Tour and even back in 2010 he went top-10 a the Giro d’Italia. His wins have been tantalizing — Paris-Nice in 2015 and 2013, Tour de Romandie in 2017, and Tour de Suisse last year. But the time for one-week stage race wins has passed. At the very least, Porte needs to get on a grand tour podium in 2019.

First of all, he is 33 years old, so the window of opportunity is closing as he passes his physiological peak. Second, he is in his first year with Trek-Segafredo, a team that has been hungry for a true GC star since Alberto Contador retired at the end of 2017 (apologies to Bauke Mollema). Porte has already committed to race the Tour de France this year, and while I like that he is swinging for the fences, perhaps his best chance would actually be to carry that Tour form into the Vuelta for a run at the red jersey. If he can’t pull it off at either of those races, well, I’ll have plenty of takes on the VeloNews podcast, resolutions be damned.

Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin)

Marcel Kittel
Marcel Kittel won scads of Tour stages in 2017. 2018? Not so much. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Dane Cash, @danecash: 2018 did not go according to plan for Marcel Kittel. He came into his debut season with Katusha-Alpecin on the heels of a strong year — he won an impressive five Tour de France stages in 2017 — but Kittel did not manage a single stage victory at the Tour last summer. He didn’t have much success elsewhere on the calendar either. A pair of Tirreno-Adriatico stages were his only pro wins all season.

Kittel did not shy away from acknowledging the disappointment, but he could not put his finger on what was behind his down year. Medical tests did not point to any specific ailment. Whatever was holding him back, Kittel will hope to put it behind him, and quickly, this season. He will turn 31 in May, and young sprinting rivals Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) are getting better every year.

Fortunately for Kittel, he has some experience when it comes to bouncing back from an off year. He was the fastest sprinter on the planet in 2014, but struggled with illness in 2015 and did not even race a grand tour. He returned to winning ways the following season. That should give him reason to be optimistic that he can bounce back once again here in 2019.

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)

Was Fabio Aru’s Vuelta a España victory a fluke? He has yet to deliver since he defeated Tom Dumoulin in 2015. Photo: ©Mark Van Hecke | Getty Images

Chris Case, @chrisjustincase: There was a finite time — to be more specific, in 2015, during both the Giro d’Italia (where he was second) and the Vuelta a España (which he won) — when Fabio Aru was headed straight to the top of the Italian grand tour throne, dislodging Vincenzo Nibali from his perch. The Sardinian’s fight and grit were clear; big results seemed inevitable.

Then the staircase to that high perch crumbled. Aru has never really been the same rider since. Sure, he’s had his moments — a fifth place at the 2017 Tour de France among them — but he’s steadily dropped down every list of contenders preceding every subsequent grand tour. Now, when prognosticators put together their who-to-watch lists, he’s nearly an afterthought.

Over three years on since his sole grand tour triumph, Aru needs to have a big result in 2019. There were indications that dietary issues were holding him back last year. With those resolved, and a lighter schedule in the early season, Aru hopes to return to his former self. He has yet to confirm which grand tour(s) he will ride this year, but it appears increasingly likely that he will return to the Giro despite the presence of three individual time trials — he’s even stated that the Tour de France route fits him better. But his participation in the Tour is much less certain, especially given the presence of Dan Martin and new arrival Fernando Gaviria.

Perhaps what Aru needs more than a return to grand tour glory is simply to regain some confidence. If I was his team manager, I’d have him commit to putting in solid performances at a few early-season second-tier stage races: Algarve and Catalunya. Then, hit the Giro with the fire and determination that he once plastered all over his face.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish’s quest to equal Eddy Merckx’s stage-win record in the Tour de France hit a stumbling block in 2018. Photo: ©Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Andrew Hood, @eurohoody: It’s not that Mark Cavendish needs a good season; he deserves one. The Manxman has had a rough ride since coming within a whisker of winning a second world title in Doha in 2016. Injuries, crashes, and illnesses have derailed the most lethal sprinting threat of his generation. One win in 2017 and one win in 2018. That’s not single digits — that’s one digit, as in one win per season for the past two years, hardly what everyone expects from the most prolific sprinter since Mario Cipollini ruled the straightaways.

At 33, Cavendish is bound to return to the fray in 2019, a contract year for him. People have written Cavendish off before, but it won’t be any easier getting closer to Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins with the rise of more youthful legs in Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen. It’s now or never for Cavendish in 2019.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Nairo Quintana
Can Nairo Quintana return to his winning ways in a grand tour. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Fred Dreier, @freddreier: Poor Nairo Quintana. No other grand tour star needs a big win in 2019 quite like Quintana. Since 2013, Quintana’s name has been included on the shortest lists of cycling’s top grand tour riders, and this past season, it really felt like Quintana’s place on these lists was simply out of courtesy. Tenth at the Tour. Eighth at the Vuelta. Those results are simply not good enough for a man who was, half a decade ago now, slated to be Chris Froome’s top rival. These days Quintana is in trouble of slipping down to a (gasp) second-tier grand tour contender, far behind the Yates brothers, Tom Dumoulin, and Geraint Thomas (he’s nowhere near Froome). What went wrong?

Quintana has a suitable excuse for not winning a grand tour in 2017; his team’s disastrous decision to have him race the Giro/Tour double was simply too hard. But what’s to blame for last year’s shortcoming? Movistar’s now ridiculous three-headed monster (Quintana, Valverde, Landa) strategy can’t take all the blame for Quintana’s bad legs. Quintana should forego the Tour and instead focus on the Giro and a head-to-head battle with Colombia’s new star, Egan Bernal. Nothing would pad Quintana’s confidence quite like beating the new kid.

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Quintana confirms season debut at San Juan

With an eye toward the Tour de France, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will kick-start his 2019 season in the Tour de San Juan (January 27-February 3) in Argentina.

Race officials confirmed Monday the two-time Tour runner-up will open his campaign in Argentina. It will be Quintana’s first start in the race after riding the now-defunct Tour de San Luis in Argentina on three occasions, including overall victory in 2014.

“The stages are ideal for the beginning of the season,” Quintana said. “The first goal is to train, but we’ll see if we can do something along the way.”

Quintana will be joined by South American teammates Richard Carapaz (Ecuador), Winner Anacona and Carlos Betancur (Colombia), and Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina). Carlos Barbero of Spain is the only rider who doesn’t hail from Latin America for Movistar’s preliminary San Luis roster.

Quintana is also expected to race the Tour of Colombia in February before making his European debut at Paris-Nice. He’s indicated he’ll race the Tour of the Basque Country and perhaps some of the Ardennes classics before a return to the Tour de Suisse in June, where he won a stage and finished third on the podium in 2018.

The ultimate goal is the Tour and a defiant Quintana said his “sueño amarillo” to become South America’s first yellow jersey-winner is alive and well.

“I still think I have a Tour (de France) in my legs,” said Quintana, who is also racing the Vuelta a España. “The big goal for 2019 will be to pull off a big win.”

Other top riders for the San Juan tour include Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Emirates), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).

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Movistar taps Quintana as sole leader for Tour

MADRID (AFP) — Colombian climber Nairo Quintana will lead Movistar at the 2019 Tour de France, Movistar’s manager Eusebio Unzué revealed Tuesday at a team presentation in Madrid.

During the 2018 Tour, Quintana — who has won both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana — was the team’s co-leader with world champion Alejandro Valverde and Spanish climber Mikel Landa. In 2019, Quintana will spearhead the team’s effort at the French grand tour.

Quintana was runner-up to Chris Froome in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015. Now at his peak, the 28-year-old remains a true contender for a win in the sport’s greatest race.

“We will continue dreaming [of the Tour de France win], and we will continue to work for it,” said Quintana.

Unzué admitted last season’s tactics had failed and that backing the Colombian was the key to success in 2019.

“We want to concentrate our focus on Nairo on the Tour de France and the Vuelta too,” Unzué said at a presentation of the 2019 lineup in Madrid.

“The key objective for the team this year is to win a grand tour.”

The 38-year-old Valverde, who won the thrilling, mountainous world championships in Innsbruck this year, will race the Giro in May and the Vuelta in September, Unzué revealed.

Landa, recruited from Team Sky, will race the Giro in May and then back up Quintana in the Tour de France.

“We were always in there with a chance last season but somehow the strategy [of three leaders] fell short and we failed to meet our objectives.

“We had wonderful moments though with 27 wins, but had bad luck with Quintana and Landa not quite as good as we’d been hoping for,” Unzué said. “But that will all change this year.”

Movistar, the second most powerful team in professional cycling after Team Sky, renewed a deal to sponsor the Spanish outfit until 2021 just two days ago.

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Don’t expect many Giro-Tour double attempts in 2019

If 2018 was the year of the Giro-Tour double, this coming season likely won’t see many of the major grand tour stars take a shot at one of cycling’s most elusive achievements.

So far, Movistar’s Mikel Landa is the only top rider who’s hinted he might race both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 2019. While race schedules are yet to be finalized, most of the other major GC riders in the peloton seem to be shying away from the heft of the double attempt in 2019.

Look no further than Team Sky. Tour champ Geraint Thomas and defending Giro winner Chris Froome have both strongly hinted that the Tour will be the center of their respective calendars. For both of those riders, the lure of the Tour is too much to resist.

“I definitely feels there’s unfinished business [at the Giro] but next year might be the wrong time,” Thomas told BBC this week. “Being at the Tour with the No. 1 on my back, it would be a shame to know I wouldn’t be at my best.”

Froome, who won the Giro in May and finished third at the Tour, also said he’s leaning toward an all-out push for the yellow jersey in what he hopes will be a record-tying fifth victory.

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), who finished second in both the Giro and Tour in 2018, says he’s still undecided on how his calendar will shape up. The big Dutchman says the Giro route with its longer time trial kilometers suits him better than next year’s climb-heavy Tour route. However, many expect Dumoulin to tilt toward the Tour at the expense of the Giro.

Quintana, who fell short in a 2017 double attempt with second at the Giro and 12th at the Tour, has already confirmed he will not race the Giro in 2019.

“I want to be as fresh as possible for the Tour,” Quintana said this week from Colombia, “and the route with the high mountains really favors me. My dream of winning the Tour is still fully intact.”

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) admitted he’d love to race next year’s Giro, but said the combination of sponsor demands and a climb-friendly Tour route means he’ll put July at the center of his 2019 calendar.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), one of only two active riders who has won all three grand tours (alongside Froome), is expected to make a full push for the Giro. He last tried the Giro-Tour double in 2016, when he won the Giro but was not a factor for the yellow jersey, in 30th overall.

Once considered too difficult to realistically confront both races in top form, the demanding Giro-Tour double has returned to fashion the past few seasons.

More major riders have taken up the challenge with varying success. Alberto Contador gave it a good run in 2015, winning the Giro before going fifth at the Tour. Quintana tried in 2017 with mixed results, finishing second to Dumoulin at the Giro before finishing a flat 12th at the Tour. Both of them said the hard effort at the Giro left them empty for the Tour.

So why did Froome and Dumoulin — the closest anyone’s come to pulling off the double in decades — fare so well in 2018? Soccer’s World Cup. Tour organizers bumped the race back a week later in July to limit overlapping the race with the popular soccer tournament.

This year’s Giro ended May 27 and the Tour started July 7 for a total of 40 days between. An additional week spaced out the two grand tours. That might not seem like much, but both Froome and Dumoulin said that full week of recovery was decisive to their commitment to the 2018 double attempt.

“That extra week was key to being able to race the Giro and still have a chance to recover for the Tour,” Froome told VeloNews in a recent interview. “That was the main reason why we decided to try the Giro. Without that week, there really isn’t enough time to have a chance to recover from that effort at the Giro.”

Dumoulin doesn’t expect any GC rider to realistically hope to fare well in both grand tours.

“Next year it’s going to be a week less so there will be only three and a half weeks,” Dumoulin said. “I think next year whoever wants to go for the challenge to do the Giro and Tour, that would be pretty impossible in my eyes.”

Next year’s Giro ends June 2 and the Tour starts July 6 with only 33 days in between, so don’t expect anyone racing to win the Giro to have a lot of firepower left in late July.

Next year’s Giro is expected to draw riders such as Nibali, Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and perhaps Egan Bernal (Sky). None of them are expected to race the Tour, and if they do, the yellow jersey wouldn’t be a realistic goal.

The mark left by Marco Pantani — who became the last rider to pull off the double in 1998 — looks safe for now.

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Podcast: Can Quintana deliver? Katie Compton interview

Welcome to the VeloNews cycling podcast, where we discuss the latest trends, news, and controversies in the world of cycling.

Our man in Europe Andrew Hood Skypes in to talk about what he learned at Movistar’s team camp. Plus, he remembers the late Paul Sherwen, who died unexpectedly Sunday night.

We discuss if Nairo Quintana can turn things around after a disappointing 2018 season, whether Mikel Landa is cut out to be an outright grand tour GC leader, and how Alejandro Valverde is handling the spotlight of being world champion.

Later in the program, we hear from Katie Compton on her “worst season yet” and ask her if she’ll be able to defend her national cyclocross championship title.

If you like what you hear, subscribe to the VeloNews podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Please give us a review and a rating, if you have time! Also, check out the VeloNews Fast Talk training podcast with Trevor Connor and the VeloNews tech podcast with Dan Cavallari.

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Quintana no fan of Movistar’s three-pronged Tour attack

Nairo Quintana, back in Colombia this month ahead of his gran fondo event, admitted he is no fan of Movistar’s three-pronged attack in the Tour de France.

The two-time Tour runner-up saw his leadership duties diluted in the 2018 Tour when Movistar also sent teammates Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde with protected status. The tactic delivered a stage win with Quintana and a top-10 with Landa, but it fell short of a podium push.

“I don’t like it, but [Movistar manager Eusebio] Unzué is convinced that it’s possible,” Quintana told French TV. “So that’s how it went.”

Movistar remains uncommitted on how it will tackle the 2019 Tour, a climb-heavy course that on paper should favor Quintana. Reigning world champion Valverde has hinted that he will not ride next year’s Tour, meaning that Movistar will likely bring Landa and Quintana as co-captains.

In a previous interview, Quintana also revealed his dissatisfaction with shared leadership, but the arrival of Landa in 2018 meant that the Colombian would no longer be the singular focus at Movistar.

Movistar officials say they will map out the 2019 racing calendar for all its major players later this month at a team training camp in Spain. Landa has also commented that he is expected to race the Tour with captain status and hinted he might take on the Giro as well. Quintana said he’s committed to racing the Tour as the singular focus of his season.

“The mountains in this year’s Tour favor us because of the high altitude,” he said. “That’s where I live and train, so I am accustomed to this altitude. My dreams of winning the Tour are fully intact. I’ve been close before, and it’s been a bit more bitter these past two years, but I still hope to win it.”

A stage victory in the Pyrénées — his first since his breakout 2013 Tour when he was second overall and won the best climber’s as well as best young rider’s jersey — took the edge off what was largely a GC disappointment for Quintana.

“We’ve had more brilliant years before,” Quintana said of 2018. “Even though we worked as hard as ever, things didn’t turn out as we had hoped in the important races. I was pretty good in the Tour de Suisse and other races and we ended up with a pretty decent season, but we’re hoping to be better next year.”

Quintana faces a bit of a career crossroads in 2019. Twice second to Chris Froome and once third at the Tour, he admits that he desperately wants to become South America’s first Tour winner. The rise of Egan Bernal on archrival Sky could complicate matters.

Quintana, 28, confirmed he will finish out his final year of his latest contract with Movistar, where he joined as a pro in 2012, but hinted there could be a change on the horizon.

“We are already looking to the future,” he said. “Now we are only thinking about having a great season with this team [Movistar] that has always treated me well.”

Quintana will debut his season at the Tour de San Juan before racing at the rebranded Tour Colombia 2.1, where he finished second last year to Bernal when the race was called “Oro y Paz.”

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