Monday, July 22, 2013

Colombia’s Quintana Obtains Second Place in Tour de France

Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana finished his first-ever participation in the Tour de France with an extraordinary second place finish.

Yesterday Quintana became the first Latin American in a quarter century to reach the podium of the world’s top cycling completion. The 23-year-old’s dream debut also included winning the white jersey as the best young rider and the polka-dot jersey as the best mountain climber.

He has plenty of talent and I think he could be one of the Tour’s greats,” said race winner Chris Froome of Britain about Quintana.  “I knew he would give it his all and he achieved something very important,” added Froome who finished over five minutes ahead of Quintana.

The Boyacá-born Quintana shined in the centenary edition though when the Tour began he wasn’t among the experts’ favorites to be among the top riders.  (For BBC Sport, Quintana’s teammate on the Movistar team, Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, was seen as a “potential rival” against Froome while Quintana was not mentioned.)  Yet Quintana proved his prowess in the always difficult mountain stages, which seemed natural for someone who as a child used to make a ten mile trip to a school located high in the Andes.

The pinnacle moment for Quintana in France occurred in the penultimate stage on Saturday; a date that coincidentally was the 202nd anniversary of Colombia’s independence.  Entering stage 20 in fifth place overall, Quintana took advantage of the pace set for most of the day by his Movistar teammates and he was able to pull away with eight kilometers left in a breakaway group that included Frrome and Spaniard Joaquim Rodríguez. The group stayed together until Quintana burst forth with some 900 meters to go until the finish and captured the stage victory while his elated family back home celebrated the win.   

“I can't ask for more. I almost have everything, it's fantastic. Thank you to my teammates and my sports directors, who have helped me achieve this,” exclaimed Quintana after triumphing in Semnoz.

Quintana’s podium finished in the Tour was just the latest triumph in a year where Colombian cyclists excelled in numerous competitions.  Rigoberto Urán, who didn’t participate in the Tour due to injury, won second place in the Giro de Italia.  Quintana won the Tour of the Basque Country in Spain, while Sergio Henao and Carlos Betancur reached the podium of the one-day La Fleche Wallonne race.

What’s next for Quintana and the rest of his compatriots on two wheels?  Possible glory in the Tour of Spain and the Cycling World Championships late this year.

In 2012, only one Latin American cyclist participated in Le Tour: Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina.  Quintana was joined by three other cyclists from the region each representing Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Video Source– YouTube via user senaldeportes

Online Sources – Tour de France 2012 and 2013; El Tiempo; Reuters; National Post; euronews; BBC News; El Espectador

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