Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Nairo Quintana may be running out of options at
the Tour de France but he says the next two Alpine stages will favour him over
race leader Chris Froome.
Quintana has been quietly coming to the boil at the Tour after an
unremarkable first week which left him two minutes behind Froome.
The 25-year-old Colombian then lost another minute to his British rival on
the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees but since then he's been gradually
coming into top form.
Quintana has tried probing a few times on climbs in the Alps but it is the
next two stages "with lots of climbs and big changes in altitude"
that he thinks will be decisive, and will give him an advantage over Froome.
Although stretching his legs with a couple of half-hearted accelerations on
Thursday's 18th stage, but without truly attacking the Sky leader, Quintana
vowed: "Tomorrow (Friday) we'll race differently."
Friday's 138km 19th stage begins with the tough 15.4km first category (6.3
percent average gradient) Col du Chaussy right from the off before scaling the
22.4km hors category (6.9 percent) Col de la Croix de Fer.
Thereafter there's still the 5.7km second category (6.8 percent) Col du
Mollard and the 18km first category (6.1 percent) finish up to La Toussuire.
"Up until now Froome hasn't made any mistakes nor suffered any
weaknesses," said Quintana's Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue.
"He's descended as well as anyone else and has controlled all his
"We're hoping that with the accumulation of stages, one day he won't be
able to recover as well, he'll be a little less strong and we'll be able to try
"However, he's leading the race on his own merits."
It is the number of ascents and a mounting of climbing that may give
Quintana a chance to attack Froome and eat into his 3min 10sec deficit.
With just two stages left in which to make a difference, Quintana is the
only realistic rival to Froome in most people's minds.
But if he had to choose a stage to win, it would be Saturday's 20th which
finishes on Alpe d'Huez.
"I think the finish at La Toussuire is very beautiful but Alpe d'Huez
is more renowned, more iconic and I prefer it," said Quintana.
Whatever Quintana and teammate Alejandro Valverde - third at 4min 09sec -
do, Froome says he'll be ready for it.
"I don't actually know the first climb (on Friday - Chaussy), I will be
seeing it for the first time," said the 30-year-old.
"Certainly I know La Toussuire at the finish, it's a tough climb. The
easiest part is towards the top so it could be quite a tactical climb once we
reach the final 4km-5km.
"Personally, I'm expecting Movistar to put in lot of attacks!"