Quintana breaks through in debut to take Colombia’s biggest Tour de France success
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quintana breaks through in debut to take Colombia’s biggest Tour de France success

by Shane Stokes at 11:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Stunning first Tour dedicated to Mauricio Soler

Nairo QuintanaAn important part of the peloton in recent decades, Colombia had trailblazers such as two time King of the Mountains Lucho Herrera and podium finisher Fabio Parra, as well as stage winners Oliverio Rincon, Félix Cárdenas, Mauricio Soler, Chepe González, Santiago Botero and Nelson Rodriguez. However in his first ever Tour Nairo Quintana has already eclipsed all of their achievements.

Just 23 years of age, the Movistar rider will end his debut with a glittering haul. He is set to finish second overall in Paris today, thus beating Parra’s third in 1988 as the previous best GC result. He also took a stage win yesterday at Annecy – Mont Semnoz, jumped to the lead of the King of the Mountains classification and also sealed his success in the best young rider competition.

Given his age and the scope for further improvement in the years ahead, Quintana is being seen by some as a rider who can challenge for the overall victory in the near future.

“What I achieved today is the result of lots of work and the class God and my parents gave me,” he said after yesterday’s triumph, also referring to his runner-up slot overall and the mountains and white jersey classifications.

“What I achieved is also a result of my team's work: only a year ago, I thought about contesting the Tour overall. I had just turned pro and was contesting my first big races, showing myself to the world.”

Perhaps reflecting his humble background, Quintana said he never dared dream of big things when he was young, simply taking things day by day, but last year began to plan ahead and to consider that Tour success could be possible.

Quintana has been influenced and inspired by the Colombian riders who came before him, including Herrera and Parra, the most famous of the early wave, and also by the more recent riders from that country.

Those included the 2007 King of the Mountains Mauricio Soler, who unfortunately suffered serious head injuries when he crashed out of the 2011 Tour de Suisse and was forced to retire from the sport.

Quintana paid particular attention yesterday to Soler, who he referred to with fondness. “I want to take advantage from this moment to salute another Colombian who won this jersey in the Tour and is now at home, recovering after his accident in the 2011 Tour de Suisse: Mauricio Soler,” he said.

“He told me he would take care of me from there, and this victory is dedicated to him; best wishes of full recovery, my friend, you're an inspiration for me to keep going.”

Quintana needs simply to stay upright today to seal his second place overall. It’s a stunning debut, the best for a first time Tour rider in many years, and echoes the first performances of competitors such as Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond.

Fignon won his debut Tour in 1983, while LeMond finished third the following season.

More recently riders have taken several years to reach the level necessary to challenge, yet Quintana has already shown he is one of the very best in the world. That points to a huge natural talent, as does his earlier success in the Tour de l’Avenir at twenty years of age.

“People asked me and will surely ask me to win the Tour de France in the future,” he said, making clear he understands what is a huge desire from the country. “In Colombia they wanted me to conquer the KOM jersey, which was always essential to us Colombian riders.”

He’s achieved the latter, and now want to target the former in the years to come. “What happened today makes me really confident and willing to work and give it a try,” he stated, already thinking ahead to 2014 and beyond.

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