Stage winner interview with Nairo Quintana
Tour de Suisse: How well do you remember the seventh stage of the Tour de Suisse 2018?
Nairo Quintana: I remember it well. I had just had a few important weeks of training in Colombia. That stage was key for me. It really put my physical fitness to the test, and with July in mind, my team also really needed to see that I was in top form.
TdS: Up until Chur, the race was relatively unspectacular, a large breakaway group was leading the race. Then everything changed with the first few metres of the ascent. Had you already planned your attack at the start of the ascent?
NQ: Yes, it was all part of a strategy that we developed with the team and, above all, with our sporting director José Luis Arrieta. And it was also José’s birthday on the day – so there was double cause for celebration. Even before the ascent, we gained a little pace along with Daniele Bennati and accelerated on the flat. We wanted to join the large breakaway group of almost 30 riders that had formed right after the start of the race. Here, we got a lot of help from Víctor de la Parte. His support was essential in launching the attack.
TdS: What goes through your head when you are breaking away on your own at the foot of a 30-km ascent
NQ: I knew it was going to be very difficult and strenuous. At the same time, the team’s performance showed me that they would stay with me as much as they could. And that’s exactly what happened.
TdS: No one could follow you, the nerves in the BMC ranks were palpable.
But did you know how to approach the long, flatter stretch in the middle of the ascent?
NQ: Yes, and this is where de la Parte was so important for our strategy. I could never have managed that section alone. Without the support of the others and good teamwork, I would never have managed to maintain the lead.
TdS: In that flatter section, the breakaway group caught up with you, but you had to do all the work yourself. Do you get annoyed in that situation, or were you able to just ignore the group of riders at your heels?
NQ:T hanks to de la Parte’s support, I really wasn’t entirely alone on that section. And Mikel [Landa] was behind me, and he went on the offensive several times to break the rhythm of the BMC team. I had asked him to to that.
TdS: On the ascent, Richie Porte profited first of all from the intensive work of Greg Van Avermaet, which led him through the middle section, and on the final ascent, he was hard on the heels of Jakob Fuglsang. Did it spoil your excitement that at the end you had no time over leader Richie Porte?
NQ: Not at all. For me personally, the stage victory was a huge success in itself, particularly as it was my first victory of the year. For the team as well, in view of the challenges to come, that was an enormous moral support. In moments like that, you don’t start thinking about whether you have a big or small lead. A stage victory in the Tour de Suisse is something special in itself.
TdS: After the concluding time trial in Bellinzona, you came in third. Was the GC podium a fixed target for you, or were you focusing on stage victory?
NQ: Overall victory was not my main goal. Instead, for the Tour de Suisse last year, our goal was to attract attention. And we managed that, too, with that first little «hurdle» in Arosa and in the time trial, which went pretty well.
TdS: As a cycling pro, you travel almost everywhere in the world. What do you take away from Switzerland? What are your lasting impressions?
NQ: I was particularly impressed by how tidy everything was. Unique race routes, very pretty, tidy villages... And while the fans here are very enthusiastic, they are also very respectful. The quality standards for the race are very high in a number of respects.
TdS: Thank you, Nairo, and best of luck for the season. We hope to see you again in June!
NQ: Thank you! Yes, if it fits in with our planning, I would be incredibly happy to see you all again either this year, or if not, then next year.