• Nairo Quintana celebrates his first win of 2017 at the Vuelta a Communitat Valencia. (AAP)Source: AAP
While Chris Froome was testing his legs in Australia, his closest rival, Nairo Quintana, took part in the Challenge Mallorca and then lifted the tempo to take the overall win at the Vuelta a Communitat Valencia.
Cycling Central
7 Feb 2017 - 11:37 AM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2017 - 11:41 AM

Along with Australia’s Richie Porte (BMC), Both riders appear on track for the bigger tests to come later on this year.

Quintana surprised many when it was revealed by his Movistar team that he would target the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double in 2017, rather than taking on Froome with a single-minded focus at the Tour.

"This year we have some clear objectives in mind which are the Giro and the Tour. We know that getting the preparation right will be key," Quintana said after Valencia. "At the moment we think we are on the right road to start there at 100 per cent."

The record of riders attempting to win both the Giro and Tour in the same season is not a good one, with the late Marco Pantani the last to complete the feat in 1998 - one of only seven riders to do so.

The last to try and fail at that feat was Alberto Contador. Now it’s Quintana's ambitious turn.

This may prove to be a bad decision for Movistar but one that is also unsurprising for a team which prides itself on being competitive from January to October every year with its entire suite of riders.

For Movistar, it’s often as much about consistency as it is victories. But here it’s taking a big risk. One where they and Quintana may fail at both because their competitors are focussing on single obsessions.

The Tour is not like any other race. It’s one which requires single-minded devotion of team and rider. The men who regularly win in Paris are often those who risk their entire season on a single good performance.

“Yes, that is a challenge,” Quintana told La Gazzetta dello Sport a couple of weeks ago. “Cycling is different today. I don’t know if it’s harder than before because I didn’t live in that era, but it’s different.

“Now, every day is a fight. Often stages are decided by seconds. For this reason, the double motivates me even more, it’s a challenge and we are accepting the risk involved.”

Movistar thinks it’s a risk worth taking but I’ll be provocative here and say that the decision is almost an admission that they cannot beat a single-minded Froome (and Porte) at the Tour so they are spreading their Grand Tour bets across the season.

Think again about Movistar's penchant for consistency.

Quintana’s work will be cut out for him. Both Fabio Aru (Astana) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) will be ferocious in attempting to win the centenary edition of the Giro.

The 2017 race starts in Aru’s home Island of Sardinia and rolls through Nibali’s Sicilian hometown of Messina with sojourn up the nearby Mount Etna volcano. To say they will be motivated is an understatement and nothing would please organisers more than an Italian win in this edition.

Battling those two at home is likely to leave Quintana without the legs to contest the final week of the Tour against a finely tuned Froome or Porte.

My bet is that when the going gets tough at the Giro Quintana will dose his effort in anticipation of the Tour and hope to save a podium position for himself and the team in Milan.

Movistar insists Quintana can perform, with team boss Eusebio Unzué telling La Gazzetta that their data supports the decision.

“We are not doing things just for the sake of it,” Unzué said. “We have the data that make us think that Nairo can do well in both Tours and [his] history says that in the second Grand Tour of the season, he goes better than in the first.”

Unzué also noted that three of the Tour victories he engineered with Miguel Indurain and Pedro Delgado, came after they rode the Giro, so he does have some anecdotal experience to add to the data which he says supports the attempt.

At 27 Quintana is just coming into his prime and has already won the Giro in 2014 and Vuelta a Espana in 2016 so Movistar’s confidence is to be expected.

So the theory is that win or lose the Giro, Quintana will be stronger at the Tour and in a strong position to beat both Froome and Porte. 

Theories are nice but the weight of history tells us a different story, he, like many before him, will probably find it too great a task.