Cycling, Spain, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Movistar, Nairo Quintana
Vuelta al Pais Vasco winner Nairo Quintana (AAP)

There is questioning, then there is questioning, but if you are going to ask, make sure you have a form guide sitting next to you.

Universal Sports (USA) commentators Steve Schlanger and Todd Gogulski clearly didn't when discussing Nairo Quintana’s recent Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) victory, casting doubt on its validity.



Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas is one of the brightest stars in professional cycling, and one leading a Colombian renaissance in the sport, riding for Spanish squad Movistar.

He’s young, small, light and comes with the Colombian climbing heritage built into his DNA. He’s also handy in a time trial particularly one that favours the climbers, not unlike Australia’s Richie Porte.

Yes, given the competition it was a bit of a surprise that Quintana won Pais Vasco, probably the biggest race in Spain outside of the Vuelta a Espana, but on closer inspection it was also predictable.

Quintana’s young career is filled with highlights which demonstrate he is a rider on the rise.

In 2010 he won the Tour de l'Avenir, a race that heralds promise for young riders. The following year saw him wearing the mountains classification jersey at the end of the Volta a Catalunya.

2012 was a breakthrough season for Quintana, winning the Vuelta a Murcia, Route du Sud and Giro dell'Emilia. There were also stage victories at the Critérium du Dauphiné and Vuelta a España - the latter as a member of Movistar’s winning teams time trial squad.

This year he finished fourth overall at the Volta a Catalunya which included a stage win. The difficult Pais Vasco is now his biggest career victory and one consistent with his progression as a rider.

The set up for the final stage of Pais Vasco was this. Quintana was the meat in a Sky sandwich, with Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Simon Spilak (Katusha) added ingredients.

Sky’s Sergio Luis Henao, another Colombian, held a six second lead on Quintana and team-mate Richie Porte with a 24km individual time trial left to decide the race winner. The form guide suggested Porte, or even Contador at 10 seconds, would win the race but the stage profile still intrigued.

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The race was in doubt right to the end and did not disappoint, with just the right degree of difficulty for a rider like Quintana to step up, which he did. World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma -QuickStep) took the victory but Quintana had done enough to better Henao, Porte and Contador.



Which brings me back to Schlanger and Gogulski. All of us have to be careful in rushing to judgement. Yes, the climate in the sport is one of mistrust and the past is ever present, we should be vigilant. However before we light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks we should check a riders’ palmares and also take a closer look at the parcours.

Simply put, Quintana won a race his career trajectory suggested he could win.

Note: Quintana won the Tour de l'Avenir with 4-72 Colombia (Colombia es Passion) a team dedicated to clean cycling in that country and developing riders with strong ethical principles. If you're on Twitter, follow the team here.

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