Colombian heads into Monday’s Itzulia start -a race he won in 2013- after runner-up finish in Catalunya + last Wednesday’s Dwars.
Nairo Quintana feels calm and confident towards the upcoming 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco. The Colombian climber from the Movistar Team, a former winner of the Spanish race in 2013, will line up in the Itzulia for the fourth time, having claimed top-5 finishes in every edition he’s taken part in (3rd in 2016, 4th in 2015).
Quintana arrives to the Basque stagerace -his final event in Europe before heading back to Colombia- after a 2nd-place finish in last week’s Volta a Catalunya and completing last Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen classic in Belgium. He’ll be back to the cobblestones of northern Europe for a couple of days after the Itzulia, to inspect the pavé sections that will be tackled come July in the Tour de France, his biggest goal of the season.”
“I finished the Volta with a very sweet taste. Not only because of another win by Alejandro, but also for the great work by the whole team, and on a more personal side, feeling myself strong and on the right path. We then left for Belgium. I had not raced on cobblestones since my first time in the region back in 2015. We didn’t really covered that many sections, but I’m satisfied with this experience in Flanders. I wasn’t up there with the main contenders in the decisive part of the race, but the group I made part of in the finale was a good chance to re-learn how to enter the cobbled sections, test some things, find the right tyre pressures… It was really useful for my body, to remember those feelings you need when the big goal comes and you have to do your best at the Tour de France in July. We’ll the back to the cobblestones after País Vasco to inspect the sections we’ll face in the summer, experience the conditions we’ll find there. Riding over those sections with my team-mates will be important to see how we can work together, to tackle them in the best way possible.”
Regarding the Vuelta al País Vasco, Nairo underlines the passion of the local fans; says he feels “like at home” when he’s racing in the Basque Country; and hopes to offer them some fireworks during the six-day event starting tomorrow.
“I’d have liked to approach the race a bit more calmly, but it was a week with lots of journeys after the Volta. I hope to get better and better during the race itself. We’ll try to do our best, as we always do. Our initial plan is to go chase the GC with Mikel, who’s determined to do well here. We’ll be there supporting him and keeping an eye on some opportunities for the team’s best interest during the race. My fitness level is good at the moment – we already saw in Catalunya I’m doind well and I feel fine before this race. The approach to this part of the season in terms of training remains similar to previous years. What has changed, though, is the fact that I don’t have that pressure on about having to contest the victory at every single event. However, when you’re in good condition you can’t rule any result out.
“The route will be really demanding, as it’s always the case here. Those short, really steep climbs are the norm here, and we should expect really aggressive racing. We must stay focused at all times. I think, though, that this year’s time trial could be decisive for the end result. It’s one for the real specialists, and the gaps created on Thursday might be key for the GC. It will be an important test for me, and I’ll try to put all energy I’ve got on doing well.
“The Vuelta al País Vasco is always a special race for me. I’ve lived near this region for many years and feel like at home in the Basque Country. The people has always treated me well here. I’ve always tend to compare their lifestyle and culture to the one we have in Colombia. I feel close to them and always liked to do well here. The Basque fans are so passionate and I always try to give them reasons to enjoy what we do. Plus, we’ve got two local riders in our roster – Mikel and Víctor – and that makes the team take an extra level of commitment to get a good result here.”