The idea for Nairo Quintana at this year’s Vuelta a España is simple: stay out of trouble. Following a bruising Tour de France which left some of his countrymen injured and unable to compete, the 28-year-old wants to “just avoid crashes” on day three of the Spanish tour which began on Saturday.
So far, so good: Quintana is in eighth position, 33 seconds off the pace of Polish race-leader Michał Kwiatkowski. Quintana and his Movistar team surprised race followers on Monday when they began a prolonged acceleration in the final kilometres of the third stage.
Speaking to the mass of South American reporters at the end of the stage, Colombia’s best general classification hopeful said it was a tactical decision to avoid any issues.
“The idea was to move ahead on that long descent to the finish to avoid any dangers or splits in the sprint,” Quintana said. “That was the most important thing today, we didn’t want to fight for the stage win, just avoid crashes. It was an incident-free day and the team was with us all the way.”
Quintana will be hoping to improve upon his recent 10th place finish at the Tour de France. The cyclist from Cómbita in Boyacá proved why he is nicknamed “El Cóndor de los Andes“, storming home on the mountainous 15th stage to score his first Tour de France stage win in five years. However, he could not best his runner-up finishes of 2013 and 2015.
Quintana stod atop of the Vuelta a España podium in 2016 and will be hoping to repeat the performance in this year’s 3,271 kilometre race.
Fellow Colombian talent Rigoberto Urán also enjoyed a trouble-free opening to the race. Nineteenth position marks a solid result for Urán following his disappointing early finish at this year’s Tour de France.
Hopes had been high for Urán after finishing runner-up in last year’s Tour de France but those hopes came crashing down to earth, literally, in a bad fall of the ninth stage. Injury forced the 31-year-old to quit the race in the following stage.
Urán and Quintana join former Vuelta a España winners Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru as favourites to take out the title.
This year’s Vuelta a España will continue until September 15. Follow all the results and action on the official website.