Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, runner-up to Chris Froome in last summer’s Tour de France and one of his biggest potential challengers as the Team Sky man seeks to retain his crown this year, has confirmed that he will be skipping this year’s race. Instead, Quintana will focus on May’s Giro d’Italia and he will also ride the Vuelta, which begins in August.
Last July, the Colombian began the Tour in support of Alejandro Valverde but emerged as Movistar’s principal challenger after the Spaniard was dropped from the front group on Stage 13 after suffering a mechanical issue just as the wind caused echelons to form.
Quintana would go on to finish the race in second place overall, and also made visits to the podium in front of the Arc de Triomphe to collect the mountains and best young rider’s jerseys.
He began the final stage around 5 minutes down on Froome, but many believe he could have presented a stronger challenge had he being Movistar's designated rider from the outset.
The 23-year-old won the penultimate stage of the race, which featured a summit finish on Mont Semnoz, finishing 18 seconds ahead of Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriquez and 29 seconds in front of Frome.
Speaking last week to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo prior to his departure for the Tour de San Luis in Argentina which starts today, Quintana said: "I’m preparing for the season with the Giro d’Italia as my big goal. My team and I have decided I’ll ride it, as well as being at the Vuelta a España.”
“Valverde will be the leader at the Tour and for now, I’ll focus on the Giro and the Vuelta,” he continued. “I’ll leave the Tour for other years.”
Movistar manager Eusebio Unzúe had previously hinted that Quintana might focus on the Giro in 2014, but it’s only now that the news has been confirmed.
With reigning Giro champion, Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali focusing on the Tour, where he finished third behind the Team Sky pair of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Froome in 2012, Quintana’s biggest rival in Italy this may could be his compatriot, Rigoberto Uran.
Last year, riding with Team Sky, Uran finished runner-up to Nibali, having taken over leadership of the British team mid-race after Wiggins abandoned through illness.
Following his close-season switch, Uran, who won the best rider’s classification at the 2012 Giro, will go into the 2014 race as leader of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
The pair, along with Sky’s Sergio Henao and AG2R-La Mondiale’s Carlos Betancur, are at the forefront of a new generation of Colombian talent vying to become only the second rider from the country – indeed, from Latin America – to win a Grand Tour, the first being 1987 Vuelta winner, Luis Herrera.
Both Henao and Quintana have been joined at their respective teams by family members for the 2014 season.
Henao’s 20-year-old cousin, Sebastian Henao, has signed for Team Sky, while Quintana’s brother Dayer, aged 21, has gone to Movistar.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.