When Movistar Team launched their fourth season under Telefónica’s sponsorship to the media in January, they were united in one dream – to record a Grand Tour win in 2014 – this dream came true in Trieste today as Nairo Quintana and his team-mates delivered victory in the 97th Giro d’Italia.
After three weeks of gruelling racing, Quintana – also winner of the white jersey of the Young Riders’ competition, plus two stages – took ultimate victory thanks to the invaluable help of his companions Andrey Amador, Igor Antón, Jonathan Castroviejo, Eros Capecchi, José Herrada, Gorka Izagirre, Adriano Malori and Fran Ventoso, as well as sports directors Arrieta and Jaimerena.
At 24, Quintana becomes only the fifth rider in the last 50 years – after Pollentier, Hinault, Contador and Induráin – to claim overall honours in their first ever Giro and also the youngest pink jersey winner in a decade and the first Giro winner from Latin America.
Today’s success – Nairo’s 20th as pro cyclist and Movistar’s 99th as sponsor – is the thirteenth Grand Tour victory (seven Tours, three Giros and three Vueltas) in the long history of Eusebio Unzué’s squads and pushed Quintana into the lead in the WorldTour standings. It’s Movistar Team’s 17th win of the season and the Blues now lie in second place in the UCI’s team ranking.
It’s one of the happiest days in my life. I always dreamt of winning a Grand Tour and now it’s become real. Thanks to my team, my family and all the people that supports me, this is now achieved. I wasn’t expecting at all to see so many Colombians in Trieste today. It was amazing to see so many flags through the circuit and around the podium. I’m super proud of my country. Probably I’ve been stronger than the rest, and we sort of saw it on Friday. Yet, I strill suffered, like all the others. I’m a human being, a normal one, just like any other person, and legs did really hurt to me yesterday, but I defended myself well. It’s true that I wasn’t in my best possible condition throughout the race and still struggle with mucus. These long mountain stages also had an impact. I looked like calm, but I could feel pain inside.
I’m a good climber and things went well in the Giro if you take into account my real health status, but there are other riders who also ride fast and have more experience than me. We must keep working and digging every day to equal or even beat them. My biggest breakdown during the Giro was the Stelvio, where I wasn’t able to put my rain jacket on for the descent. I was about to get off the bike to put on it, but then, Gorka was my best support; he forced me to continue with no rain jacket to ride on. It was snowing really much, all my clothes were wet, but he supported me all the way in that difficult moment, gave me some food and we went on. He gave me motivation to win such a difficult stage, so hard, yet so beautiful at the end, finishing with a smile.
This generation of Colombian riders like me – we’re showing the world, since some of us came to Europe in 2012, we can wint stages, important races, we show our quality – yet today’s win is a huge reality, another big success. Last year I was second in the Tour de France, something that no other Colombian had achieved prior – plus, Rigoberto was also second in the Giro. It might be coincidence, a choice of nature, but we’re strong, just like that. I think there are some other Colombian lads, younger than us, who are also strong and will show their quality in the future, in European teams and races. When I came into the pro scene, I was lucky enough to sign for the right team. I got to know a great professor and a person who knows loads about cycling, who transmits his knowledge well and had so many different champions into his teams: Eusebio Unzué. I always listen to him, we speak, he teaches me, he keeps me calm, and when you have good legs, it all becomes much easier.
Life itself pushed me forward, and it keeps doing so – I don’t realize, but I got to this sort of success really early in my life, yet with all those ones surrounding me, I grew up a lot, I learned a lot of things, took massive leaps forward and there’s no comparison from what I was four years ago to what I am now. I feel like a complete man now, one able to do many more things in cycling, to offer the fans some spectacle and make them enjoy for many years. There’s much of Nairo Quintana still to give.