• Nairo Quintana celebrates as he wins Stage 3 of the Tour de la Provence attacking 7.2kms from the finish and blowing away all rivals (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Nairo Quintana is relishing his leadership role with new team Arkea-Samsic delivering the team their third victory this season and his first for the French squad.
Cycling Central

16 Feb 2020 - 12:29 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2020 - 1:23 PM

Donald Draper in 'Mad Men' said if you don't like what people are saying about you, change the conversation.

Quintana changed teams, still copped flak, but he and Arkea-Samsic sent a message from Mont Ventoux this morning (AEDT) cycling pundits should read loud and clear.

Nairo Quintana is back and the pro-conti team has arrived. 

Just keep winning: Arkea-Samsic on track to beat 2019 record, and it's only February
Arkea-Samsic look set to beat their 2019 record of just five victories with their sprint star Nacer Bouhanni taking two wins within the last week.

It is super early in the season and the Tour de la Provence is hardly a WorldTour stage race attracting numerous big stars, but Quintana's relief is veritably etched on his newly minted svelte frame.

When announcing his Arkea-Samsic last September, Quintana said "I was looking for a team in which I was going to be happy. I think that's the key to flourishing professionally."

Freed from the shackles of Movistar's confusing multi co-leadership and grand tour team classification focus, the Colombian relished the opportunity to pay back Arkea-Samsic's belief in him by jumping clear from the bunch, 7.2kms out from the finish. Noone survived his blistering attack as he powered away solo to stage victory and the race lead. 

Earlier on the stage, his team helped control first the five-man breakaway and then Remi Cavagna's advantage as sole leader for much of the race, until Arkea-Samsic, but especially Winner Anacona, put the peloton under pressure on the lower slopes of Ventoux right until Quintana's launch pad.  

"I really wanted to shine this shirt of the Arkéa-Samsic team very quickly," Quintana said. "And thank Emmanuel Hubert, General Manager of the Arkéa-Samsic team for the confidence he has placed in me.

"The team’s work was exceptional on this stage of Chalet Reynard. I would like to thank everyone, my teammates, the staff of the Arkéa-Samsic team, but also the French public. This success brings back fond memories.

"I arrived in a family team, at Arkéa Samsic...I feel at home, alive again. I want to do the maximum with this Arkéa-Samsic jersey."

Quintana's victory builds on a strong early season where he finished second in the ITT and fourth in the road race at the Colombian nationals and his stage victories last year at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. 

But Arkea-Samsic and Quintana are perhaps enjoying success in another area - winning the hearts and minds of the French public.

"We felt that the public on the side of the roads of Ventoux had immediately adopted him," Emmanuel Hubert, Arkea-Samsic general manager said.

"I knew that Nairo Quintana was a champion. But today he demonstrated it again on the field and not in any race, any pass, the Ventoux, with an arrival at Chalet Reynard.

"Nairo has often been labeled a wait-and-see rider, but today, the French public has discovered who is Nairo Quintana, a rider carried by an (attacking) spirit."

It is Arkea-Samsic's third trip to the podium to don a race leader's jersey after Nacer Bouhanni's sprint wins at both the Saudi Tour and Tour de la Provence. Bouhanni also held a brief lead in the Provence points classification in Provence and won it overall in Saudi Arabia.  

Quintana goes into the final stage - LIVE streaming on SBS On Demand or our website from 11.40pm AEDT tonight (16 February) with a one minute and four second lead over Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana). 

The little team that could, just might do it...again.