Could it really be possible? A Tour debutant from Colombia who came from nothing, and now has a long shot at taking cycling’s greatest prize of all? In cycling, anything’s possible, writes Anthony Tan from the summit of Alpe d’Huez.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

"Personally, I think he's the second-best GC rider in this race. If he had an opportunity at the Tour de France to ride solely for himself, he would certainly be on the podium."

Thursday atop Alpe d'Huez, Chris Froome was praising his ever-loyal lieutenant Richie Porte. But is he being a touch disrespectful to Nairo Quintana?

Quintana, a guy whose parents were so poor, they had to save up to buy their son a used mountain bike that cost thirty dollars, so he wouldn't have to walk sixteen kilometres each way to school.

A guy whose parents couldn't afford the fees to race his bike, which led to his father asking the organisers to let him race, on the proviso he would pay them back when it was over – with the prize money Nairo earned from winning.

A guy who, aged 20, won two stages and the overall at the Tour de l'Avenir in 2010, otherwise known as the 'Tour of the Future' for its perennial ability to unearth future Grand Tour champions.

A guy who, in his debut season on the WorldTour last year, won two stage races as well as the queen leg of the Critérium du Dauphiné, where, on that day, he beat Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins and… Chris Froome.

A guy who, this year, became one the youngest winners of the Tour of the Basque Country, aged 23, cementing his place in Movistar's Tour de France squad.

A guy who, in his debut Tour de France, was, like Porte, prepared to sacrifice himself for his erstwhile leader Alejandro Valverde, until a week ago, when a mechanical cost the Spaniard eight-and-a-half minutes on the wind-buffeted road to Saint-Amand-Montrond.

A guy who, unlike the Belkin duo of Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam, is prepared to throw caution to the wind, rather than ride conservatively to preserve his place on the leader board.

A guy who, having lost just 1min 11sec to Froome in yesterday's individual time trial to place sixth on the stage – only beaten by his more credentialed and experienced peers – felt he should have done better because the parcours suited him to a T.

And after today's stage to Alpe d'Huez, a guy who moved from fifth to third overall, now 5min 32sec in arrears of Froome, and just 21 seconds behind second-placed Alberto Contador.

Over the next two days, arguably the two hardest stages are yet to be tackled, taking into consideration their parcours and placement at the back end of this Tour, with a touch over one hundred kilometres of high Alpine mountains to be traversed.

Boasting a nine-minute advantage over Michel Kwiatkowski, he has the white jersey wrapped up. Over the next forty-eight hours, should Froome falter en route to Le Grand-Bornand or Annecy-Semnoz, he could take yellow, too. "I will give everything for this team and my country in these three days left to Paris," vowed the self-effacing flyweight from the Colombian cycling hotbed of Boyacá.

Equally, Quintana could also capitulate. "There are many moments of real struggling into the race, and you end up pedalling more with your mind than with your legs," he said Thursday.

However, should the unthinkable happen, if ever there were a rags-to-riches story, a story for the disenchanted to believe in cycling once again, this would be it.

To quote the song by Frank Sinatra, you can go to extremes with impossible schemes, if you're young at heart.

Quintana certainly is that.