Heading into the second week of the Tour, Quintana is but a shadow of the rider he can be, almost invisible and apparently riding just to survive the journey to Paris.
"So far it's been more about will than might,” Quintana said on the rest day. “We're still up for the fight, though, and we'll try to keep improving. We have lost some time until yesterday, and to be honest, it was only due to lack of energy.
“However, there's still a long way to go in this Tour, and we're so determined to do great things in what's to come. I'm not going through my best moment as a pro, that's obvious, but I still hope to go through some 'brilliant' days in the remainder of the race.
Yep, hope dies last.
"It's true that I've got many racing days on my shoulders, considering I completed the Giro,” he said. “I don't know if I'll get better during the next two weeks or not. But I'm really hopeful about finding my best legs, even for one day, and I can just hope it's in an important stage.
That’s rider speak for I’m totally cooked and I left all my watts behind in Milan, Italy.
The 27-year-old Quintana started the year ambitiously with the now almost impossible Giro/Tour double in his sights, last done by the late Marco Pantani in an era noted for its extravagantly enhanced riding, 1998 to be specific.
Quintana did finish second at the Giro but has clearly paid the price forward for the effort.
Ambition is good but let's call this stunt for what it really is, a rare departure from reality by his Movistar team, one which has effectively cruelled the season for its star rider. No one cares about second place at the Giro.
Movistar is one of the best teams in world cycling under the stewardship of Eusebio Unzué since he took the reins in 2008. He’s a man not generally prone to rash decisions and runs a tight ship which usually delivers the goods.
However, something happened in late 2016. Hubris perhaps? A drunken dare? Whatever it was, the decision was made to send its best Grand Tour rider on a Quixotic journey from Italy to France.
Unzué clearly thought Quintana would be up to the task, with the Colombian’s ability to be a better rider in week three and the Tour’s limited kilometres against the clock and “gentler” course cited as reasons to aim high.
Perhaps Quintana is not as good as Unzué thinks. He’s not the only rider of his generation who can win a Grand Tour, as Sunweb’s 26-year-old Tom Dumoulin did at the Giro.
Dumoulin placed his entire focus and will on winning the 100th Giro, proving its best to serve one master. And Sky’s Chris Froome effectively does the same each year for the Tour.
Quintana has no regrets apparently, as he watches the last flames of his season flicker out. Or at least none he’s prepared to share with us.
"I'm not regretful at all about having ridden the Giro,” he said. “It was a gamble, something different. We still have a lot to learn in cycling, and we will draw many positive and negative conclusions about these months in order to improve in the future.”
Here’s one conclusion. Learn from history. Learn from your peers. The Giro/Tour double died with Pantani.