Nairo Quintana to lead Movistar at Giro d'Italia, Enric Mas at Tour de France, both at Vuelta a España

Colombian given Grand Tour leadership role after four years away from the team and 18 months away from the pro peloton

Clock12:16, Thursday 21st December 2023
Nairo Quintana training in new Movistar kit

© Movistar Team / Cxcling Creative Agency

Nairo Quintana is back with Movistar

Nairo Quintana will target the Giro d’Italia on his return to the pro peloton, as Enric Mas takes the reins once again at the Tour de France, with both riders set to join forces for Movistar at the Vuelta a España.

The Spanish team, which has men’s and women’s squads, held their 2024 team presentation on Thursday, as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Telefónica, the parent company of title sponsor Movistar.

The major news was the outlining of the team’s Grand Tour plans for 2024, with Quintana slotting straight back into a leadership role on his return to the team after a four-year absence, and his return to the peloton after 18 months away in the wake of his positive tests for Tramadol.

The 33-year-old will take aim at the Giro in May, named as team leader alongside his fellow Colombian Einer Rubio, who placed 11th overall at this year’s edition of the Italian Grand Tour.

“The Giro is a race I haven’t done a lot, but one that, logically, I like a lot,” said Quintana, whose two appearances have resulted in victory in 2014 and the runner-up spot in 2017.

Quite apart from the question marks over his form, the route for the 2024 Giro d’Italia might pose a barrier to a repeat of those exploits, with 68.2km of individual time trialling and a notable reduction in the total amount of climbing over the three weeks.

Quintana will kick off his 2024 campaign on home soil, racing his national championships and the Tour Colombia, before returning to Europe to take in Volta a Catalunya and Itzulia Basque Country ahead of the start of the Giro on 4 May.

In any case, just being back in a team kit meant a lot to Quintana, who has been in exile since last summer. He was not banned for breaking the Tramadol rules, and it did not constitute an anti-doping offence at the time (although it would from 2024), but his contract with Arkéa-Samsic was terminated and he struggled to find a new team before his old employers threw him a lifeline.

“It’s one of the happiest moments of my life, to be here today,” said Quintana, who rode for Movistar between 2012 and 2019, winning the Vuelta a España as well as the Giro, plus three Tour de France podiums.

“I’m grateful, I’m emotional, and I’m happy to be starting a new era, happy to be home.”

Mas, Tour, and Vuelta

Later in the season, Quintana will join forces with Enric Mas, the rider who effectively replaced him as the focal point of Movistar’s Grand Tour ambitions from 2020. Both riders have a great track record at the Vuelta a España – Mas three times a runner-up, Quintana a winner in 2016 – and they’ll follow something of a Movistar blueprint of leaders splitting the Giro and Tour before congregating for the team’s ‘home’ Grand Tour.

“What I think of Nairo is, I think, what everyone thinks of Nairo. He started here, he became great here, he had a four-year parenthesis where he was away from home, but he’s going to bring a lot to the table, with his experience and his quality. He has won so many things. He made himself great here and he’s going to continue to be great now he’s back.”

As for Mas himself, the Spaniard will again eschew a Giro d’Italia debut in order to return to the Tour de France for a sixth year in a row. He was fifth in 2020 and sixth in 2021 but has endured two miserable editions since, catching the yips and then COVID in 2022 and crashing out on the very first day this year.

“I just wish for no bad luck,” said Mas after a bruising campaign. “I feel like I used it all up now anyway.

“It’s all experience that will serve me well in the future, for moments in or out of the races where you have to keep your chin up and tell yourself you can get through these moments.”

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